Young people growing up in SOS Children's Villages continue to amaze us with their talents and hobbies. As well as having fun, many discover that creative activities can be a therapeutic way to overcome a troubled past. Through music and singing, two teenagers in South America have found new ways to express themselves and have hope for a bright future.
Gerardo and his trombone in Ecuador
Instruments of all kinds are being tuned one last time as Ecuador's Symphonic Youth Orchestra warms up before a concert. Among the vibrating noise is 15-year-old Gerardo - one of the newest members of the orchestra. “I wanted to play the harp, but they didn't have one. So I decided on the trombone,” he says with a smile on his face.
Gerardo has been growing up in SOS Children's Village Quito since 2009. A few months ago, he joined the youth orchestra, together with many of his SOS brothers and sisters. Gerardo was given a yellow and black trombone - the first instrument he has ever owned or played. Yet despite his inexperience he's full of confidence: “I feel as if I am already a professional when I play,” he says.
The transformative power of music
Maestro Patricio Aizaga is convinced that music has a transformative power for children, especially those at risk. An internationally renowned conductor and the executive director of the youth orchestra in Ecuador, Aizaga was inspired by the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra (El Sistema), which was founded by Gustavo Dudamel in the 1990s. In Venezuela, children from disadvantaged neighbourhoods were invited to join the orchestra - with profound and positive impacts on them and their families.Convinced of the project's potential elsewhere in South America, Aizaga founded a youth orchestra in Ecuador.
Made up of young musicians from vulnerable backgrounds, the success of the orchestra is evident in its European tours, where concerts have been performed to packed halls. There are more subtle successes too, impacting the individual lives of each child with an instrument. Aizaga says,
“You know that these instruments open up new roads in life. Maybe they will continue in music. Maybe not. What’s important is that they are experimenting in the development of their emotions, in learning discipline and responsibility, in sharing the music. One of the marvelous things about the orchestra is that it is one of the best examples of community. They have a common goal; they must respect themselves and each other.”
“I have seen a fantastic change in Gerardo”
When Gerardo moved into the SOS Children's Village in Quito, he did not want to be there and he missed his father. Although he slowly settled into his new life, a lingering anger remained. “He sometimes skipped classes, he didn’t have much motivation, he was extremely reserved,” says María, a youth worker at the Children's Village.
However, since joining the youth orchestra, a change has come over Gerardo. He appears to be letting go of his past and instead looking out to his future. María says,
“I have seen a fantastic change in Gerardo. Now he has vision, curiosity – he tells me: ‘I have to go to practice now!’. He fulfills his commitments in the house, he smiles, he’s less reserved, he seems happy, content. It’s the same with school – he has such a good attitude, he has found motivation in this space. Who knows what will pass in the future? Maybe music will be his career.”
Back in the music hall, Gerardo is practising “Twinkle, twinkle little star” under the watchful gaze of Aizaga. “I love watching him play trombone,” says the conductor, “I see so much talent, so much emotional intelligence. Wherever his career takes him, the important thing is that he is happy, and music contributes to this.”
Yanet sings in Peru
Across the Ecuadorian border and into Peru, another young person at an SOS Village has discovered music as a way to move on from a traumatic past.
Less than a year ago, Yanet's mother died suddenly. Being the eldest of five children, responsibility fell on Yanet's shoulders to emotionally support her younger brothers. Their father struggled to provide for them, and the children were at risk of neglect if they stayed in his care.
To ensure the five children received the love and support they needed to flourish, they all moved into SOS Children's Village Pachacamac. It took a while for them to get used to the new surroundings, let alone deal with the grief of losing their mother. “When I joined, I was somewhat anxious, as to what would become of my life; whether I would be happy here or not,” says Yanet.
A soothing melody
Over time, Yanet became more comfortable and confident in her SOS family home. Like many children around the world, she began to sing in the family's living room, much to the pleasure of her first audience - her biological and SOS siblings. They noticed her talent, and thought the whole village should hear her lovely voice! Soon, she was performing to the entire SOS Children's Village, amplified with a microphone and a sound system.
“Yanet is fifteen years old and loves music. Singing has become the best way to express her deepest feelings,” says her SOS mother. Yanet has now joined a local choir, which represents the Village on special occasions.
Her attitude about living in the Children's Village has changed, and she's enjoying her new life: “I enjoy many advantages by staying at the Village, like sharing moments with my biological and SOS siblings, pursuing my studies at school where I am a sophomore, and I'm doing very well”, says Yanet. “I feel like I am organising my life every day, and implementing moral values such as respect, solidarity, tolerance, humility and love. This will help me achieve my goals and, at the same time, set an example for my younger siblings.”
SOS Children's Villages around the world are alive with the sound of laughter, singing and music. In these special communities, children are given the support and care they need to look towards a bright future. You can help children in South America by sponsoring a child today.
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