and when i play, my mind is free
survivor girl ukulele band 2015 — kolkata! — is underway, bringing hope and restoration to survivors of human trafficking through the healing power of music and love!!
on january 22, after more than 40 hours of travel, i arrived at the sanlaap (pronounced shonglaap) shelter home in kolkata, the city formerly known as calcutta. it’s winter here, and the weather has been wonderful, but it’s quickly ramping up to soon be rainy, hot hot hot, and super humid.
my first student!
the very night i arrived, tanvi* dropped by my room and started playing ukulele. yay!!
currently i’m teaching two or three classes a day and have sixteen students. i also try to facilitate an evening practice session for my morning class.
and here’s part of the morning class! i wish you could see the struggles and triumphs and challenges and failures and obstacles and victories!! it’s pretty wild. stay tuned for a full post about this class!
one of the first things i did was buy colorful new floor mats and two lamps to make the teaching area cozy and comfortable. can you see in the photo that one of the lamps is a ukulele?! when i saw that ukulele lamp in the shop, it said, “buy me!” and i said, “ok!!” hahah!!
in early march i will start new beginner classes, and already there are more than ten girls asking to get into the new classes.
twinkle twinkle little star
one of my students has started a fabulous ukulele notebook, and as you can see from her notes, we’re learning “twinkle twinkle little star.” its a song both my students and i already know, which makes it much easier for them to learn and for me to teach.
the evening class has six students, and they are a dedicated bunch. the other night we’d been playing for over two hours, and i was getting hungry. “class hogaya?” i said (class finished?) “no!!” they said. “one more!!” we’re learning “purano sei diner katha,” a classic bengali love song, and between that and “twinkle twinkle little star” and pachelbel’s “canon in d” in c, they want to keep playing and learning.
and when i play, my mind is free.
the other night i asked the girls what they thought of playing the ukulele. prem* said, “at first i thought it was hard. but now i think it’s easy. and when i play, my mind is free.”
it’s moments and journeys and outcomes like that that this survivor girl ukulele band project is all about.
it is such a privilege for me to be here and do this work called survivor girl ukulele band project, where i try to give these girls a glimpse of something else, something new, something good, something light, something joyful for their lives — as we strum on colorful little ukuleles and learn and laugh and play and sing.
thank you thank you thank you for supporting me and this project through your friendship, your love, your financial gifts, your hugs, and your words of encouragement.
* names are changed.