Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Antigua, Guatemala to work at a nonprofit organization called Sueños. Sueños is an after-school program for disadvantaged children started by a Philadelphian, Katie Korsyn. The mission of Sueños is to combat drop-out rates and help kids be successful at school. Kids receive a free, balanced meal, classes, and help with homework and studies. What they had never had at Sueños or in their public schools was a music class. That's where I come in.
In third grade, like many other students, I learned to play the recorder at my school. Last year I still had that recorder packed away in our house, and I assumed many of my classmates did as well. At the time I was already planning on helping out with classes at Sueños for a week, so I emailed Katie to see if I could start a recorder class as well. She said yes, so I reached out to my school community and neighborhood in order to collect a total of 20 recorders to bring to Sueños.
I was going to ask for donations of recorder lesson books as well, but they would all be in English, not Spanish! Instead I made a short book of my own to bring to the school (you can see kids holding their copies in the video).
The kids all loved playing the recorder. I was surprised to find that a few of the older girls went home and learned the next song in the book right after the first lesson! This was so exciting for me since I didn't even think to ask them to practice.
One of the hardest parts for the kids simply turned out to be covering the fingering holes all at once. At first I had to put tape over some of the holes in the younger kids' recorders to make it easier for them to play, but by the end most of them could play on their own.
There are so many benefits to studying music — in developing math and listening skills, leadership, teamwork and focus — but for that week in Guatemala, it became a shared language of joy for me and the kids of Sueños. I learned so much there and I hope to return next summer.
Learn more about Sueños at their website: www.suenosgt.org