Asylum seekers to hit right note

Asylum seekers to hit right note
Sarah Thelen from Cork who donated a guitar with Norbert Nkengurutse

Volunteers who work with asylum seekers are collecting old guitars to help residents in direct provision centres to learn to play and maybe even perform live in the future.

The initiative is being run by Burundian guitar player Norbert Nkenguruste, who lives at the Kinsale Road centre in Cork, and his friend Roos Demol, originally from Belgium, who works with asylum seekers on a voluntary basis.

Roos says they hope to get direct provision residents together to learn guitar and they need instruments for budding musicians to practice on. They are accepting donations of guitars at the Record and Relics store on Washington Street and have already collected five acoustics and one electric axe. Guitar teachers have also come forward to offer their support.

“Music is such a fantastic thing to have. People have so many troubles on their mind and it's nice to let go for an hour a week or when they're alone with their instrument,” said Roos.

“If you're feeling depressed you can pick up an instrument and have a personal relationship with it. Norbert thought it would be great to teach people living in direct provision accommodation how to play guitar and when he asked around a lot said they would like to learn.

“A lot of people have guitars lying around. I put a notice on Facebook and then a musician I know, Aine O'Gorman, said she would come and teach. From there it started rolling and the reaction has been quite nice,” she added.

They also want to set up a singing group where people from all around the world can exchange their songs and relieve stress and they have plans to start a band comprised of international musicians sometime in the future.

“We're hoping to get more guitars. We're starting off by supplying them to the direct provision centre on the Kinsale Road roundabout but if it works well we will extend it to other centres in Cork and maybe even across the country,” said Roos.

“Someone has also given us a keyboard and we would also take drums. With a little luck, we could start a band next year. We have a guy who is going to do any repairs that we need and we may do a little bit of fundraising to fund new strings for the guitars.

“Asylum seekers are some of the most highly educated people you could imagine and they are sitting around and not allowed to do anything. They need an outlet and music is a great outlet." 

The group have a request in for practice space in the Kinsale Road direct provision centre but would be open to offers of space nearby if anybody would like to contact them. You can get information on how to donate your instrument at

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