Build Music & Arts Centre for Bidi Bidi Refugees

Since 2017, To:Foundation has been reframing the narrative around what it means to be a ‘refugee’, supporting refugee-led initiatives that put play and creativity at the forefront, nurturing artistic and musical talent and creating opportunities for creative expression and community development.

Bidi Bidi refugee settlement in northern Uganda, on the border with South Sudan, is a refuge for those fleeing civil war. In just over six years Bidi Bidi has grown from rural farmland to a home for more than 250,000 displaced people, the second largest refugee settlement in the world. For refugees in Bidi Bidi, trauma is widespread, as is anxiety about their present and their future; life here isn’t easy. Unemployment, the daily struggle to source nutritious food, and persistent drought leading to a shortage of clean water, all challenges faced by refugees here, who have fought so hard to get to safety. And with little opportunity for education or creative expression there is immense boredom, particularly for young people.

We need your help to bring a state-of-the-art music and arts center to Bidi Bidi, providing opportunity and hope, nurturing talent, and addressing many urgent community issues.

Music is a powerful tool for young people to express themselves and can be therapeutic for those healing from trauma. The Bidi Bidi Music & Arts Centre will serve as an essential place for creative expression, providing an outlet to support healing in a community that has suffered greatly, connecting young people to important traditions, and bridging between communities throughout Bidi Bidi. The architectural design, spearheaded by the renowned Hassell Studios, will combine the traditional aesthetics of northern Uganda with innovations such as rainwater harvesting to provide fresh drinking water.

This is not a traditional humanitarian project. While old development models fail to harness the power of creativity, our model incorporates entrepreneurship, creativity, and play.

The Design:

Hassell Studios are collaborating with Ugandan firm LocalWorks to build the Bidi Bidi Music & Arts Centre. The construction, managed by local building companies who will recruit and train refugees, uses low-cost, low-carbon local building materials.

The Bidi Bidi Music & Arts Centre will incorporate the following:
  • Music classroom
  • Recording studio
  • Open air performance & community space
  • Secure musical equipment storage
  • Vegetable garden & tree nursery

During the long dry seasons, water can be scarce, leading to rationing and long lines at pumps. To address this, the roof has been designed to harvest and store over 100,000 litres of rainwater for community use.

And a community management committee of Bidi Bidi residents has been assembled to run programming, in collaboration with a board of advisors from the music industry as well as the following organisations already working in Bidi Bidi:

SINA Loketa (SINAL), established as a Ugandan NGO in 2018, is committed to working with disadvantaged communities. Their focus is on entrepreneurship, peacebuilding, ICT and digital inclusion, sustainable agriculture, and sustainability in entrepreneurship, providing increased access to decent work and economic growth.

Brass for Africa is a non-profit organization working alongside local organizations to provide regular music education, life-skills training and performance opportunities.

Artolution is a global non-profit organization that seeks to strengthen communities experiencing crisis through collaborative art-making.

Playing for Change Foundation (PFCF), founded in 2007, is an international non-profit dedicated to creating positive change through music and arts education. PFCF now operates 15 music programs across 11 countries, using music as a tool for education and social change, in some of the most diverse and culturally wealthy communities around the world. is a registered philanthropic organization in Switzerland.

Donations (55)

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  • Melissa Moncada
    • CHF500 
    • 2 mos
  • Anonymous
    • CHF100 
    • 5 mos
  • Anonymous
    • CHF5,000 
    • 6 mos
  • Antonia Locatelli
    • CHF200 
    • 7 mos
  • Carla und Lara Orenstein
    • CHF5,000 
    • 7 mos
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