Speaker says music helps
heal scars of war in kids
By Robert Stevens
Jan. 25, 2018
EPHRAIM—Nightmares plague children in war-torn nations, but the vision of one music composer brought hope and dreams of a brighter future to refugee children worldwide.
Film composer Liz Shropshire, founder of the Shropshire Music Foundation, shared an inspirational story about the restoration in faith and peace for children in conflict zones using the power of music in a lecture at the Snow College Eccles Center on Jan. 18.
After hearing an NPR broadcast 20 years ago covering the crisis in Kosovo, Shropshire said she felt inspired to help the refugee children in the war-torn nation.
“I was actually planning a trip to Europe that summer anyway, and I thought instead of just going on vacation for myself, I’ll go help out for a few weeks,” she said.
On her quest to discover ways to lend a hand, she said she stumbled upon the Balkan Sunflowers, a volunteer group based in Germany. She applied to help.
What she thought would have been a simple one-time volunteer act turned into a drive to restore self-love and respect to refugee children.
Shropshire boarded the plane to Kosovo with $5,000 in pennywhistles and harmonicas because the instruments were simple to learn and they could also be easily hidden should children be robbed, which was a frequent occurrence.
What she found upon her arrival was an excruciating wake-up call.
“There were weapons everywhere,” she said. “There were real guns, and [kids] were making weapons out of everything.”
For the last 10 years, weapons were the only way the children learned how to have control or power, and she said she remembers how the kids would reenact executions because, in their eyes, it was normal.
Shropshire described the refugee camps as places of “sadness, except for some awful sounds,” until music was introduced into their lives and was turned into a place of joy.
What was supposed to be a three-week stay turned into a six-week trip. With her job in Los Angeles on the line, her savings depleted and her credit limit reached, she said she reluctantly had to return home.
While back in the States, she met an accountant and lawyer who helped bring her vision for the Shropshire Music Foundation to life, which now offers life-changing music programs to children who have had self-worth, love and respect stripped from them as refugees and child soldiers.
“For these children, the war ends, and all that they’ve known in violence. All they’ve known is fear. And when the war goes away, that stays with them. And if we don’t do something for these children, everything they do for the rest of their lives is shaped by this hatred and fear. It’s like they’re imprisoned for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Now, with the help of teenage victims who volunteered to be music instructors in war-torn nations like Kosovo, Uganda, Northern Ireland and Greece, the Shropshire Music Foundation continues to spread joy and peace and teaches hundreds of children literacy, English and how to be leaders in their communities.
“These [teenagers] are absolutely amazing, and they are the Shropshire Music Foundation in Kosovo,” she said. “It’s not me anymore. It’s them.”
Some children even say they are finally able to sleep peacefully at night.
“This program helped me a lot,” a former Ugandan child soldier said. “Since I came back from the bush, [I don’t experience] those kinds of bad dreams because when I start thinking of a bad past, I just pick up the ukulele or the pennywhistle and start to play, and those bad dreams and that kind of thinking just disappear.”
More about Shropshire’s foundation is at http://www.shropshirefoundation.org.