Setting up a music school in refugee camps in Tchad


home-1Fifteen years ago, my Mom set up a non-profit called KOZON to promote the usage of simple solar cookers (cookits) in third world countries. These are simple contraptions of carton and aluminium foil folded in a semi-parabolic form that reflects the sunrays to a
central point where a pot is placed. The concentration of heat is enough to boil water within half an hour and complete meals can be cooked with it. It offers many advantages: no need to search for firewood; no smokefilled huts; no kids that get burned by fire; no deforestation; etc.


refugees darfurIn 2005 my Dad travelled to the refugee camps in Eastern Chad and was very much moved by the conditions the refugees had to endure. Recently retired, he decided to
dedicate himself to introducing solar cooking and other technologies in the camps. In the past decade, through TchadSolaire (the NGO he set up) he has made a huge, positive impact: by now, over forty thousand refugee families in six camps and the local population in the surrounding areas cook most of their meals using cookits, which are being manufactured by the refugees themselves.


Some years ago, while walking through one of the camps my father saw a pick-up truck with armed rebels approaching a group of refugee boys, trying to convince them to join… he was witnessing the recruiting of child-soldiers. When life is excessively boring, these boys are easily lured with tales of adventure, then drugged until they become senseless killing machines.


Having experienced that, he decided he wanted to offer refugeee kids something they could
enjoy and even get passionate about, such as playing ball games or learning to play music.
Since I have a bit more experience in this latter field than my Dad, I offered to help him.
Besides learning to play music, we wanted to help them set up their own bands, musical
groups with a repertoire of songs.


fundraisingTo start raising funds for this project I recorded a video and set up a website (www. and a facebook page ( During the summer of 2013 we received around 1500 euros of donations, with which we decided to buy musical instruments.


keyboardExcept for the occasional noisy generator, there is no electricity in the camps, so I made a
selection of instruments that don´t require it: guitars, flutes (recorders) and different kinds of percussive instruments. Since I wanted the kids to get at least a notion of what a keyboard looks and feels like, I also added a few “melodicas”, small keyboards that are
activated by blowing on a pipe and that sound like harmonicas.


In November 2013 I travelled with my Dad to the camps with the following goals:
1. bring along the instruments, make sure they arrived at their destination
2. give some music lessons to refugee kids, to find out how they react to this
3. interview several candidates for the position of music teacher at the camps


planeTo get to the camps one must first fly to the capital of Chad, N´Djamena. The camps are 900 km. towards the north east: a two day journey by fourwheel-drive, unless you´re able to hitch a ride on one of the United Nations´ humanitarian aid planes, which my Dad managed to arrange. These are small planes on which you cannot take much luggage, so we had to dispatch the six boxes with musical instruments on a lorry that would leave the next morning.
Sadly the lorry took 9 (..yes NINE!) days to reach its destination and the musicaltruckinstruments just barely arrived on time before we had to leave. Luckily we had taken a few instruments as hand-luggage.


There are four camps where we hope to give music lessons:
– Iridimi and Touloum are near the village of Iriba
-Milé and Kounoungu are near the village of Gueréda
Tchad Solaire has bases with a few employees in both villages and also has small ateliers in
each of the four camps, where refugees on TchadSolaire´s payroll manufacture solar cookers and run training programs to teach the refugees how to use them. It also uses a four-wheel drive in both villages. When travelling between the village and the refugee camps you can hook up with the daily convoy with military escort that leaves at 8:00 and returns at 14:00.


schoolUpon arriving at the camps we made a point of meeting with the refugee´s representatives to garner support for the music lessons. We were received with much enthusiasm
and each time we heard the same reasoning: TchadSolaire had been a source of many improvements in their lives so if TchadSolaire wanted to introduce music lessons, then that
just had to be a good thing.

ethusiasmWe wanted to get some experience in actually teaching some of the kids, so we informed a few of the refugee women working at the tchadSolaire atelier to get some kids to come over
the next day after school. Little did we know!!… The enthusiasm was totally overwhelming, kids emerged from everywhere, hundreds of children from 5 to 20 years old, all piled up at the entrance of the atelier!
We had a serious crowd-management issue, but finally managed to line ´m up and select about three dozen (we took kids aged 12 -15 and then allowed for about three from each of the ten zones, to avoid jealousies.. what else could we
do!?!..). We gave guitar-, flute- and bongo lessons and had a lot of fun, even though they didn´t have much of a clue of what was going on.. (nor did we, it seemed..)


Our goal is to set up music schools in these refugee camps where the kids can become
passionate about making music and form groups together. For that we need teachers. We
searched within the refugee population for potential music teachers, but found none.
Therefore we decided to look amongst the local (Chadian) population, and interviewed several candidates, with some promising options. We must reckon with a total monthly cost per teacher of about 300 euros. This includes their living allowance and an additional “hardship” percentage for living out east “en brousse”. TchadSolaire can help with the daily commute between the village and the refugee camps.


guitarSince we only have limited funds, we plan to start with a four month “mission” (15th of
january until 15th of May 2014), hopefully with two teachers: one working from Iriba,
the other from Guereda. The mission statement for the teachers is:
1) give flute, guitar and percussion lessons, in groups of 2 to 8 children
2) help the kids to start forming their own bands
3) organize a “competition of the bands” towards the end of the 4 month term, in which
a concert is organized and a jury elects the best band


The initial four month period should give us an idea of how to proceed. Hopefully the project will be succesful and we can achieve enough financing, in which case we would like to continue with the teachers and the music lessons.


Between the donations we have received and the money I can make available myself we will be able to finance the salary of one teacher for the initial 4 month period. Further financing for the second teacher would be very welcome: a total of 1200 euros is needed to cover the four month period. Private donations are obviously very welcome, but besides that, you may know of a company that would be able to finance this teacher´s salary. Obviously we will be happy to support them with marketing material if necessary.


I want to sincerely thank all of those who have been so generous as to donate to this project when we launched the first campaign. If you can help us find financing for the teachers salaries please contact me. Thank you very much in advance!

Herman Rijks
00 34 65 79 79 799

Muziek project

Er zijn in de kampen scholen voor de vluchtelingkinderen. Na de schooltijd worden de meisjes verwacht hun moeder te helpen terwijl de jongens weinig te doen hebben en zich al gauw gaan vervelen. Het is algemeen bekend dat militie groepen proberen ze weg te lokken met drugs en avontuur verhalen, om kind-soldaten van ze te maken. Om deze jongens iets anders te bieden waar ze in óp kunnen gaan en waar ze een passie voor kunnen ontwikkelen, heeft TchadSolaire besloten ze de mogelijkheid te geven om muziekinstrumenten te leren spelen en samen bandjes op te richten. En de meisjes vinden het leuk om te zingen.

Vrouwen hebben pannen nodig

Totaal zijn er in de 6 kampen 35.000 families die in de CooKits koken in 2 pannen (hoofdmaaltijd en saus). Een aantal heeft ze al, maar velen hebben geen goede pannen voor hun 2 CooKits en vluchtelingen hebben vaak geen geld om een tweede , of zelfs een eerste, pan te betalen. Bovendien zijn goedkope pannen niet op grote hoeveelheden in de lokale markten te vinden. TchadSolaire bestelt nu vanuit Cameroun een grote hoeveelheid goedkope pannen. Het gaat om grote 5 liter aluminium pannen die zwart geverfd worden. In Tsjaad zijn er wel kleine zwarte pannen te koop.
De grote pannen kosten € 6,- plus € 0,50 voor de zwarte verf, totaal € 6,50/pan, vervoer inbegrepen. De kleine pannen zijn al zwart en kosten € 3,50, vervoer inbegrepen. De 2 pannen kosten dus samen € 10,- .
TchadSolaire heeft al geld gekregen voor een groot aantal pannen, maar heeft nog steeds vrij veel geld ervoor nodig.