For most children, music is one of their earliest experiences. Whether raised in poverty or luxury, children around the world are soothed to sleep by the sound of their mothers' singing or humming. As they grow, most develop their innate instincts to sing, to dance, to bob their heads to rhythms of music. And for some children, music becomes their path out of poverty or hopelessness.
The Global Fund for Children (GFC) has invested more than $30 million in small, agile, community-based organizations worldwide that are using innovative methods to directly address the needs of children in their communities. Many of these organizations have incorporated music into programs that help vulnerable young people overcome challenges that could derail a bright future.
Jiuqian Volunteer Center is one of the nonprofit organizations that GFC supports. Based in Shanghai, China, Jiuqian uses the power of singing to improve the lives of underprivileged children. The organization believes that "singing in a choir gives children a close-knit environment that fosters educational and emotional growth." Choir members, most of whom are the children of migrant workers, receive medical care and tutoring as part of the program. Children of migrant workers are usually poorer than their peers and frequently live in unsafe housing, lack adult supervision, and do not have access to quality education.
A world away in Pisac, Peru, indigenous parents formed Asociación Educativa Kusi Kawsay (Happy Life Educational Association) because they were dissatisfied with the lack of appreciation in schools for traditional Andean values, culture and way of life. They established a school where children aged three to 16 study the Quechua language and traditional music and art, along with a curriculum that satisfies the national Peruvian education requirements. Most school events include Andean music and dance. In 2012, Kusi Kawsay was named a UNESCO Associated School. In the past two years, the school has seen tremendous changes in the children and their families, including improved health, more involved parents, increased self-esteem, and higher academic testing scores.
Realizing that children's exposure to music must begin during the early years, on February 25 GFC will add a new title -- Music Everywhere! -- to its collection of books. Global Fund for Children Books has produced more than 30 award-winning titles for children from birth to age 12. Each book exposes children to diverse cultures around the world and in their own communities. GFC books integrate children's perspectives, present positive images of children, and help to support a new generation of productive, caring citizens of a global society.
Music Everywhere! is a picture book celebrating children from Ireland to Ghana to Argentina as they dance, sing, clap, play instruments and chant. The book's multicultural images convey the joy that children everywhere feel when surrounded by music. Kirkus Reviews said, "The variety of musical instruments, traditional and improvised, will gladden the hearts of teachers and those who want to encourage their children's appreciation for music."Music Everywhere! includes tips on how to involve children and students in music education and appreciation.
Music education has been shown to improve brain development and improve memory in young children. And, as we have seen among GFC partners, music also feeds children's souls and hearts.