Music is in our DNA

War Child has been associated with music for years. From concerts to widely known singers as ambassadors. But how do we actually use it in our work?

Wonder agent?

The power of music is immense. It is the connecting language that everyone speaks. For many, music simulates creativity and acts as an outlet – but, of course, a good melody is not a cure-all remedy. Children who grow up in war zones cannot escape their nightmares by singing a song. Music alone cannot heal – but it can be used as a means to help young people deal with life amidst conflict.

So how do we use music in our programs? And, more importantly, does it work?

Music workshops in shelters

War Child was born from its close ties to music. Twenty-five years ago – in 1993 – Willemijn Verloop, a social entrepreneur from the Netherlands, worked as a peace activist for the European Action Council for Peace in the Balkans. In a devastated Bosnia she first crossed paths with music professor Nigel Osborne, who organized music workshops at a bomb shelter in the region.

Joy and release

The moments of joy and disconnect that music brought the children in Bosnia inspired Willemijn. She began working with the idea that music could support the psychosocial wellbeing of war children, and organized a number of workshops in Mostar with Osborne. Two years later, the War Child Foundation was born. With the intention of reaching more children - on a bigger scale - with their activities, the foundation grew quickly. Today, War Child works across 14 countries around the world. Last year our programs helped 374,379 children and adults living with the consequences of armed conflict.

Nigel Osborne (right) during a music workshop in a shelter in Bosnia, 1992

Reduce stress 

For the sake of clarity: music is not a primary method in our core interventions. On a broader scale, our programs are aimed at providing psychosocial support, education and protection for children. In this way we help them develop important life skills that strengthen their resilience and reduce the likelihood that they might also turn to violence. War Child also works to relieve the sorrow and fear that distressed children may feel in areas crippled by conflict. With our support they learn to put difficult experiences behind them, and slowly but surely build towards a better future.

Children make music during War Child activities in South Ossetia, 2008

Increasing resilience

Music plays a major role in our core psychosocial program, I Deal. Through creative activities, games, group discussions and assignments for home, War Child helps to increase the innate resilience of children and young people. By taking part in these exercises they learn how to deal with the challenges of life in conflict and post-conflict situations as well as refugee communities. 

Positive energy

Across the I DEALs, music is essential: It brings about pleasure and positive energy and ensures connection in the group sessions. In combination with other creative methods, such as drama, visual arts, dance, sports and games, social media and ICT, children and young people learn to overcome their fears, develop trust and express themselves. 

Below you can see an example of our work with music: Live and Dream - with music we learn more. A hip-hop video made by children who participated in War Child's project 'Con Paz Aprendemos Más' in Colombia.

Another nice example of war children who use music to express their feelings is ' Voice of Children '. As part of a War Child project, Sri Lankan youths wrote a song together and made the video below. 

More on our approach