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El Salvador - Children and young people fighting violence with music

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August 1, 2014

musicaEDUCATION - "A thousand children and teenagers who live in crime-ridden areas of El Salvador have found their best weapon against violence in a music programme supported by the World Bank and funded by Japan." It is the Don Bosco Youth Symphony Orchestra, which started just over a year ago in San Salvador. The story is told in an article in the newspaper El Nuevo Herald of 15 July last.

Many more were invited at first but after the selection process "we found ourselves  working with 1,000 people," said the president of the Salvadoran Foundation for Education and Employment, Fr José María Moratalla Escudero, SDB, better known as Fr Pepe. He is the man responsible for the implementation of the programme.

The project started about three years ago.  A thousand students came from different public schools in San Salvador. About 470 take part in the music, 220 of them in the symphony orchestra and 250 in the choir. The rest are still in training.

The youthful  director of the orchestra is twenty-five year-old  Bryan Cea.  Like his students, he comes from an from area threatened by crime.  The young people in the programme are aged between 8 and 20 years. According to Fr Pepe, they come  from the suburbs of San Salvador and were chosen from schools located in areas where there is a high rate of homicide.

Even though they come from territories dominated by rival gangs Mara Salvatrucha  and Pandilla 18, they live together peacefully and without any hassle in the Don Bosco Industrial Polygon where the project is based.

The Polygon is located in a suburb of twenty-four communities, where nearly 60,000 people live. The area is controlled by Mara Salvatrucha and Pandilla 18, according to Fr Pepe. But among the members of the orchestra and the choir "it makes no difference what school they come, there is no rivalry, no antagonism between them, and there is no problem between different areas. The unity and solidarity is fantastic.”

Carlos Palma (20), a violinist, says that all the members of the musical project come from different areas and it is good to have "many friends" in the orchestra. He notes that projects like this help the country a lot and allow him to “grow from a cultural point of view."

Madelin Morales (15), a flautist, says that being part of the orchestra has helped her a lot, because she has "made ??great strides" in her studies and now sees her life "in a better perspective."

Both agree that this programme has helped them to stay away from the violence that plagues their communities.

"This is a project that prevents violence through cultural and musical activities (...) but it goes beyond prevention. It is a lifetime opportunity for young people. Music develops discipline and awareness and above all, passion." This is the view of Jania Ibarra, analyst for the operations of the World Bank.

The program was funded with at least $1 million from the Social Fund for Development of Japan, administered by the World Bank. The support of the World Bank is scheduled only until 22 July, but Fr Moratalla has given an assurance that the project will continue. The Foundation of which he is president intends to open other cultural workshops, with the help of other organizations.

Agenzia Info Salesiana, July 17, 2014

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