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There is much reported in the media about hotel accomodation for people seeking sanctuary but little focus is given to the children that are living there. Life in hotels can be incredibly tough. The children have little to do each day but roam the hotel hallways, stay in their rooms or spend time in small conference rooms with a few toys to play with. Many of the children housed in hotels have not been given school. We are pleased that we have been invited into some of the hotels to try and change that.

Afrocats artist Godfrey Pambalipe led a drumming session with 10 children and 6 mothers living in the hotels. We were joined by a volunteer from Manchester City of Sanctuary who would support the toddlers with an art activity so the mothers and older children could enjoy their time playing the drums, making sure we created a safe space where everyone could participate.

The session started and one of the children was keen to show off the skills he had learnt and performed some of his beats for Godfrey. The mothers got stuck in each grabbing a drum and playing some of the songs they had heard in a previous session.

As everyone learnt African words we were witness to a wonderful cultural exchange with the children and mothers chanting “WOSA, YEBO, AFRICAN DRUM – come, play, African drum”.

Drums are a universal instrument tied to so many cultures and the mothers even taught us some drumming patterns from their country. This led to a lot of cultural discussion about celebrations and family events and one mother said the session “reminded me of back home when we have weddings”.

Eventually, most of the children went on to colour with the toddlers but the mothers continued as they found it “SO fun!” It was clear that there is a need for the mothers to have activities and spaces where they are free to be themselves, reminisce about good memories at home, and forget the stresses of the immigration process. Towards the end of the session, the ladies brought out toffees, pistachios, and tea to share with us, show their appreciation and introduce us further into their culture.

A mother told us the session was “relieving our stress” and the music allowed everyone to come together. A beautiful reminder that “we are not dealing with tools, we are dealing with people” and we must “flow with the needs of the group”.

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