Issue - December 2007



December 2007
Editorial

In this month's issue Arnold Brauwer tells us about Ariel's Garden. Amy Stillman and Save the Children's new CD. Walter Sanchéz enlightens us with a history on Religious Popular Art andfinally Emanuele Norsa returns with an article on Elio Nina's work...read more...

December 2007

Children, Education and Rock and Roll

Coming to communities near you: The release of a new CD produced by Save the Children is explored by Amy Stillman.

by: Amy Stillman
Projects Abroad - Volunteer
St. Andrews - United Kingdonm

How does music influence your life? For the communities involved in Save the Children’s Desarrollo Integral Con La Niñez (DIN) program, music has been a gateway toward a life filled with dignity, education, and hope. For a number of years Save the Children has been implementing a project within DIN to collaborate education with music in order to create a more dynamic learning experience for the children and youths involved in the program.

DIN operates throughout Bolivia, particularly in rural areas in Sucre, Beni, Potosi, Oruro, La Paz, Pando, Cochabamba, and more. The music is incorporated into the activities of the children with the help of the Save the Children band “Camba Kollas,” comprised of four members: Raumir Martinez, David Fernandez, Omar Delfin, and Tupaj Valda. The band is imperative in directing the music workshops, however the sessions with the children are by no means your traditional con ert setting, as the children participate throughout the whole process from making the music in the workshops, to dancing and singing along.

The songs themselves are a collage of medleys taken from popular Bolivian folk music that is altered by the children and the DIN musicians to focus on contemporary themes regarding reality on the ground for these communities. Issues such as children’s rights, protecting the environment, gender equality, sexuality, health and sanitation, and procedures in emergency situations are some of the many subjects DIN has been able to explore through the help of the music. In fact, the music has become so popular that the original DIN manual holding up to 20 different songs is no longer enough.

Today the program has generated over 50 different songs, many produced by the children themselves. To solve the problem, the coordinating director of DIN, Omar Delfin, has been working on the creation of a music manual along with a CD of the songs provided in the back cover. To find out more about the program, the Cocha-banner was fortunate enough to meet with Judson Brown, the Child Sponsorship Program Manager for Save the Children, Raumir Martinez, the Music Workshop Educator of DIN and member of the band, and Omar Delfin, the Coordinating Director.

The majority of children involved in DIN range from the ages of 8 to 16, though younger children are always glad to join in the activities and games. The program has existed for little over 15 years and before DIN, Save the Children utilized NAN, an export from England designed as a teaching aid whereby “the older child teaches the younger child,” according to Raumir. However, NAN was replaced by DIN as it impacts a wider audience; the children themselves are taught educational values which they then pass on to their families and other members of their communities.

The musical aspect of the project is crucial according to both Raumir and Judson. It is through the medium of educational music that the volunteers are able to keep the children interested and involved. As Judson describes, “all of our programs are centered on the music we have.” Raumir asserted that this system was superior to a more formal system of education because “the songs are perfect to educate the children, and this program allows them to participate in a more dynamic way.” The impact of this method of teaching is apparent throughout the DIN programs all over Bolivia. For instance, in north Potosi most of the children that participated in the project at an early age are now working closely with the Alcadia and many of them have become community leaders.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the music workshops is the fact that they are created in response to the particular communities, social issues, and ages of the children they are utilized by. The volunteers enter the communities with specific themes relating to the society they become involved with. Yet, the children themselves are prone to alter the music to suit their interests, culture, and language. “We have many songs that are written by the children,” Raumir explains, “we pick the different themes, and then they change it all around and adapt the music to suit their situation.”

The songs, originally in Spanish, are more often than not translated into the language of the community. DIN works with communities that speak roughly 32 different languages. As Omar states, “the material comes in Spanish, but we’re very aware of the need to promote the indigenous language.” Hence, many of the songs are translated into local languages, and the teachers within the communities are also encouraged to sing the songs with the children in their native language. This is of special significance for the majority of communities that speak languages that are now in danger of extinction, such as Yuki, Ayoreo, and Guarayo. The music is particularly valuable in preserving cultural identity through the discussion of contemporary social issues.

An example of this can be found in Din’s adapted song “Cholita Marina.” This song is a popular traditional tune, though the lyrics have been changed by DIN to emphasize gender equality. The lyrics within the DIN manual, written in both Spanish and Quechua, exclaim, “I know I’m going to triumph, the woman is going to advance; your rights are there, never more are they going to go, Cholita Marina.”

DIN centers its activities around the promotion of children’s rights, placing special emphasis on “the two pillars of selfesteem and identity,” according to Omar. He also stresses the need to approach the activities through a strategy of “motivation, reflection, and action” in order to advance a complete educational experience. One such activity utilized by DIN is a didactic educative game in which the children act out the conventions found within the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The children are divided into 7 groups that are each assigned a theme relating to one of the colors of the Wipala, and a piece of text from the Convention. For example, in the case of the group given the color white the theme is responsibility.

This involves “the responsibilities of the child, respecting the earth, going to school, helping their parents, and respecting the law,” Omar explains. As Judson points out, “[the program] is not just about rights, there’s also responsibility.” Needless to say, the game is accompanied by lots of music! Another activity utilized by DIN is a game teaching the children about sanitation and maintaining the environment. The band “Camba Kollas” plays music and sings while the children pick up the trash around the workshop. They are given gloves, masks, and other precautionary tools in order to teach them about the importance of health and safety. As Omar describes, “we have fun, and at the same time we’re teaching children how to take care of the environment.”

Those of you interested in hearing the music will not be disappointed, as the manual and CD should be ready for distribution toward the end of December. In fact the CD is predicted by the tirelessly-working staff members of Save the Children to be available on the 22nd of December. It is intended to coincide with the celebration of Save the Children’s Peace and Reconciliation project, which you may have read about in the Cocha-banner’s August edition.

If not, this event is commemorating the progress toward peace amongst Cochabamba’s youth after the civil conflict this past January. The CD and manual provide the perfect means to enable DIN to have a long-term impact on the communities they teach. As Save the Children attempts to aid children all over Bolivia, the span for activity in any one community expires over the space of 10 years. Moreover, Save the Children works in areas affected by crisis, though it only has 6 months to a year to aid communities facing emergency situations. As Judson and Raumir have pointed out, the youth and community leaders need to continue the program after Save the Children leaves in order to ensure a lasting effect. Hence, the release of the CD and manual create the opportunity for the communities to continue teaching the messages of DIN after it departs.

For this reason, a copy of the materials are going to be distributed at no cost to all the communities that utilize DIN. Other organizations have also shown an interest in acquiring these materials to use in their respective activities and projects. This waiting list includes organizations such as UNICEF, Institute of Human Development, and Christian Child Care International. For outside organizations and perspective buyers the price is $80 Bolivianos to purchase the CD and manual. Keeping in mind that Save the Children, Canada is a non-profit organization, this is the bare minimum cost of production.

If the information about this program has convinced you of the benefits of music and education, remember there is always room in Save the Children for more volunteers, and above all, budding musicians!

Mano a mano Bolivia
Mano a Mano Bolivia is an organization that aims to alleviate and promote health, education and social development in the impoverished areas by building schools, health centres, roads, runways and distributing medical supplies. At present this organization has built 79 health centres, 30 educative infrastructures (schools buildings, bathrooms and teacher housing) and several roads and air strips...
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