The San Diego Union-Tribune is covering our healing work for Iraqi, Syrian and Afghani refugees in Southern California!
The Featured Video highlights musical ambassador Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC, founder of UpBeat Drum Circles in Encinitas, CA.
Text From San Diego Union-Tribune Article - Toggle Open or Closed with Red Icon to the Right!
About thirty refugee women sat in a circle at a church in El Cajon on a recent Monday morning, thrumming the pulse of a heartbeat on hand drums and with shakers.
Under the guidance of Ari Honarvar, they played first for a member of one of the organizations involved in the drum circle who had recently had surgery.
Then, Honarvar told them to play for women in Syria who were suffering from escalations in violence there. The thrumming became loud throbs.
In partnership with License to Freedom, a nonprofit that focuses on helping refugees and immigrants who are survivors of domestic violence, since September, Honarvar has led twice-monthly drum circles in El Cajon designed to help participants heal from trauma they’ve experienced.
“It’s basically to create a sense of belonging, which is as important as anything when you’ve been through something major,” Honarvar said.
Part of the purpose is to allow the women to have fun and to laugh, she said, but it’s also to give them a safe space to access darker emotions from their past.
“Sometimes those different emotions that end up being in the background, if we experience them, that could be more valuable than 1,000 laughs because once we experience it, we can process and let it go,” Honarvar said.
Ari Honarvar leads a group of El Cajon women in a drum circle. (Kate Morrissey/San Diego Union-Tribune)
Dilkhwaz Ahmed, founder and executive director of License to Freedom, said she hopes the drum circle program will strengthen the overall health and wellness of El Cajon’s refugee community by giving women confidence to be leaders in their community. She also sees it as a way to build cross-cultural bridges between members from different countries in the Middle East.
At the beginning of the drum circle, Honarvar took the women through breathing exercises. Throughout the session, she checked in with them, asking how different segments made them feel.
They drummed to the rhythm of the women’s names and played musical chairs. The room filled with joyous cries and laughter as the women danced in a circle inside a shrinking number of chairs and raced each other to sit down when the drumming stopped.
“How was that for you?” Honarvar asked.
“Beautiful!” one woman said.
“Happy!” another chorused. Many of the women in the room have learned that word in English.
“We forgot about a lot of terrible things,” Ahmed said, translating for one of the women who answered in Arabic.
“We remember playing as little kids, drumming on pots and pans,” she added, interpreting for another.
“For a short moment, we forget about everything, just ourselves,” Ahmed translated for a third. “We forget what’s going on outside.”
They shared songs from their home countries — Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Honarvar asked the group how each is doing with goals they set together, including learning English.
“We are in the beginning,” one woman responded in Arabic. “We are trying so hard.”
“I am 10 percent,” another said in English.
Honarvar, who is originally from Iran and translates and performs the work of Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet, spoke to the women almost exclusively in English to help them learn.
Ahmed then translated to Arabic. One woman from Afghanistan translated that to Dari for two others from her country.
A woman at the drum circle in El Cajon plays one of the hand drums. (Kate Morrissey/San Diego Union-Tribune)
Golnar Naebezdeah and Razya Hassan Ali, two of the woman from Afghanistan, said their favorite thing about coming to the circles is how much they get to laugh.
Rasha Albudiana, 33, came to the U.S. from Syria with her five children a little over a year ago and has been attending the drum circles for about five months.
“I feel so relaxed and connected with this group here in this class. I feel so happy,” Albudiana said. “When I go home, I take this happiness with me to my kids.”
Honarvar learned to lead healing drum circles through a Colorado-based group called Musical Ambassadors of Peace, which partners with License to Freedom to put on the program. Her trainer, Christine Stevens, lives in Encinitas.
Stevens, who is a trained music therapist, explained that there’s scientific evidence that programs like the drum circles can help with mental health and overcoming trauma.
“The way we use drums for therapy is based on the fact that everyone has rhythm. Everyone has a heartbeat,” Stevens said. “Having a sense of control and a sense of support is healing.”
She said San Diego should be proud of the El Cajon drum circle project.
“I don’t know of anyone doing anything as innovative,” Stevens said.
At the end of the El Cajon drum circle, the women stood holding hands and said one word to describe what they were feeling. Happy was the most common response.
As she said goodbye to Ahmed, one woman told her, “My heart is broken, but I feel better. I have hope.”
Give the Gift of a Healing Drum
Each $50 donation sends a drum to these survivors!
Ari Honarvar – Musical Ambassador from Iran
Latest Gofundme Campaign: Inspiration for Musical Ambassadors
Click on image below to go to campaign and play video!
Our Musical Ambassador from Iran, Ari Honarvar, recently published an article in YES Magazine about one of our programs for refugees.
YES Magazine Article Text: Click to Expand
As of March 21, 2018, this YES Magazine article has been shared over 1000 times on Facebook and has reached over 8000 Journalists!
Traveling 100,000 miles through the USA doing the Singing in Baghdad Presentation
Lots of local coverage
Mainstream media ignores us… Small towns love us…