Sandblast Ltd

Training more Saharawi refugee teachers to expand Desert Voicebox (DV)

We're fundraising in response to local demand to expand the benefits of our pioneering after school DV programme, providing unique chances for children to gain English language, music and life skills to become cultural ambassadors for their cause.
raised of £45,000 target
by 225 supporters
Event: Sahara Marathon 2024, on 28 February 2024
RCN 1115288

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Desert Voicebox is something different. Not all children in the camps have this chance of learning English, of learning music, and also having fun at the same time. (Nanaha, Desert Voicebox English teacher)

A third generation of Saharawi refugee children are growing up in remote and harsh desert camps in SW Algeria, with few prospects for a better future and with limited opportunities to access quality education locally to develop their potential and transform their lives.

Desert Voicebox is a first-of-its-kind early educational project that trains refugee women to provide English and music education in an after school programme. Its unique and creative approach aims to equip the next generation of Saharawi children with the confidence and know-how to become cultural ambassadors and advocate for their rights. It also seeks to empower Saharawi refugee women to become educational leaders and reduce their aid dependency.

Since Sandblast launched Desert Voicebox as a pilot in 2016 (formerly known as Stave House in the Sahara), the project has steadily grown and become an integral and valued part of the Saharawi refugee community in camp Boujdour where it is based.

To date, we’ve we been able to build our own dedicated learning centre with two large rooms to teach in and have trained four Saharawi women teachers to deliver the 4 year-long bespoke curriculum to over 60 students between the age of 6 and 12. The curriculum is inspired by the innovative Stave House method to teaching music, which uses story-telling and interactive elements to engage the children's imagination and promote their creativity.

As part of our ongoing efforts to enrich the regular curriculum, we have introduced weekly lessons in traditional music taught by two locally-based Saharawi musicians, we have been developing international penpal exchanges with English speaking primary schools and recruit international and local volunteers throughout the year support to deliver further teacher training and special creative workshops for the students. We also launched a Saturday Book club late last year, to promote literacy and the love of reading in English. American volunteers who live in the camps the year round support the programme to read to the children and engage them in conversation in English. Recently, we added a local administrator to help run the learning centre on a daily basis.

In the past year, we’ve repeatedly heard from parents, children, local educational authorities, including from the Saharawi Culture Minister that Desert Voicebox has become very important to them. They’ve seen the real benefits for those children who are participating in the programme and would like it to expand to benefit more children.

To respond to these local demands to expand, we will need more resources and to train more Saharawi teachers.

Your help to reach our £45,000 goal will enable us to build a newly equipped training space and train up to 10 new Saharawi refugees to become qualified TESOL and STAVEHOUSE teachers.

The Saharawis are indigenous to Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony in NW Africa. The territory was forcefully annexed, in 1975, by the neighbouring Moroccan kingdom before they could achieve independence. The region has been a conflict zone ever since. According to the latest UNHCR, over 173,000 Saharawis are displaced and spread out in 5 large camps in the region of Tindouf, in SW Algeria.

A story of positive impacts

Over the past four years, Desert Voicebox has been evolving to provide benefits in a number of ways:

1. It is one of few extra-curricular programmes available in the camps offering high quality education to engage young minds to learn in a fun and creative way outside of school.

2. It is uniquely providing internationally recognised certifications in music from London College of Music to students passing their exams at each level of Stave House. This is important for encouraging and validating the childrens achievements.

3. It is promoting the children's knowledge of their musical roots through Saharawi music lessons given by local professional musicians

4. It is helping to tackle the problem of rising youth delinquency, blamed on the chronic lack of stimuli and the long empty hours that follow the short 2 hour long school days.

5. It is preparing Saharawi students for greater academic success in higher education. English is not currently taught at primary school level in the camps. Due to the lack of secondary school facilities, the majority of the Saharawi students must leave the camps to pursue their higher education. Most are sponsored by the Algerian state to do their secondary schooling in different regions of the country. Knowing English has become important as it is replacing French as the main classroom language.

6. It is creating important international links through our Friends of Desert Voicebox scheme. Fantastic and qualified volunteers are getting recruited from the UK and elsewhere to train the local staff (done remotely now through WhatsApp) and to deliver enriching special workshops for the children in English and music. These have been spectacularly successful from the perspective of both the children and volunteers.

The kids are so so eager to learn and they have boundless energy and enthusiasm for music and learning music. It's so rewarding to be able to use song and music to communicate. And also encouraging their creativity, not only their musical skills. Georgia Lomax Thorpe, Music teacher volunteer, Feb 2020.

So far, we have in-kind support from various educational institutions such as AB Music Academy in London, 440Hz centre of Scenic Arts in Gijon Spain, Stave House in the UK, The International School of Oradea in Romania, and the London College of Music. And we are developing exciting new pen pal links with schools in London starting with the George Mitchell school in Walthamstow.

7. Finally, the project is providing opportunities for young Saharawi refugee women, who didn't have the chance to finish high school, to develop careers locally and reduce their aid dependency. Our local team of 4 women has been getting trained since 2016 to gain the knowledge and pedagogical skills to teach 4 levels in English and music. So far they can teach 3 levels. Our immediate aim is to train them to teach all 4 levels by Sept 2021.

We are proud to say that the project now boasts primary school children enthusiastically expressing their interests and dreams for their future in English.

We need your support to reach our goals!

We have been doing a lot with very little and have exciting plans in the pipeline. To carry on and meet our goals in the next 2 years we need to raise funds to:

1. Continue to pay talented local Saharawi musicians to teach the children about their music and learn about traditional instrument playing

2. Provide more teaching and music resources

3.Continue covering the hosting costs of our volunteers during their time in the camps living with a Saharawi family (they cover their own travel expenses). This will ensure we can continue to recruit top quality volunteers to provide stimulating and varied workshop activities that enrich the children's lives.

4. Establish a 3 week intensive immersive summer camp programme in Algiers for both the graduated Saharawi students and the DV teaching staff. This will ensure that the Dv teachers are regularly improving pedagogical skills and will provide a rewarding experience to those students who successfully complete for levels of learning in music and English.

5. Get all 4 members of the teaching team certified to teach in their subjects and qualified to train others over the next two years. This will strengthen the sustainability of the project by promoting the self-reliance of the teaching team.

6. Respond to strong local demand for the Desert Voicebox programme to expand to benefit more children within Boujdour camp and also to the other camps. To do this we aim to locally recruit and train up to 8 new teachers with a B2 level in English. They will receive pedagogical training over the course of 12 weeks and be guided and supported in their practical training by our experienced DV teachers, who will play a leading role in the expansion phase.

Support for the project can come in many ways: you can join our annual charity sports event by running the Sahara Marathon (Feb 28) to raise sponsorship funds; volunteer your time and skills, do your own local fundraisers and spread the word.

Until we are able to secure stable longer term funding, however we depend on the amazing generosity of individuals to carry out and grow the mission of Desert Voicebox.

If you are in a position to donate, please see below how your contribution can make a difference.

£20 buys art supplies for one child annually

£80 pays for weekly snacks of fresh fruit to 60 students over a month

£100 pays for a month of weekly lessons in traditional music by professional local Saharawi artists

£280 pays for a month stay in the camps for one volunteer

£325 pays to replace our broken 88 weighted key electric Casio piano

£500 pays the monthly salaries of our 5 local Desert Voicebox staff

£1100 pays for the two English teacher trainees to get their CELT-P diplomas

Find our what the experience of our volunteers at Desert Voicebox?

About the charity

Sandblast Ltd

Verified by JustGiving

RCN 1115288
We are a London-based charity working with the Saharawi refugees to tell their story, promote their own culture & earn a living through the arts. Our current music project Studio-Live provides training & resources for Saharawi youth to build a local music industry & develop their creative skills.

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