Changing lives through music
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is a small country in South America. Venezuela previously used to be an undeveloped, agriculture economy. But since the discovery of some of the world’s largest oil preserves in Venezuela in the early 20th century, the economy paced up. Today, Venezuela is one of the most urbanized countries of Latin America. The last two decades of the 1990s saw tremendous economic crisis in Venezuela. This was caused by the global oil glut of the 1980s. In Venezuela, inflation had reached 100% and poverty, 66%. In the early 2000s however, oil prices recovered and the economy of Venezuela slowly started to grow again.
Today, 7% of the 30 million population of Venezuela lives in extreme poverty. The crime rate of the country is also exceedingly high. Venezuela is a centre for drug trafficking. It ranks fourth in the world for cocaine seizures. The murder rate in Venezuela (as on 2009) was 57 among 100,000 people, making it one of the highest in the world.
In a country where crime is so prevalent, a concern for the society is to channelize the youth appropriately. In order to fight this problem, the United Nations apart from undertaking larger projects, is backing Nehyda Alas. Alas is a music teacher and the director of the Venezuelan Teresa Carreno Youth Symphony Orchestra. He believes that when children are exposed to music, their behavior improves.
Alas teaches music to the children of the poor communities of Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela. His students come from the communities where children are likely to succumb to crime, if their energies are not channelized in the right direction. Apart from training these children in music, Alas also instills in them the right values. Around 350,000 children, till date, have benefitted from this training in music.
This kind of a training helps these children develop a passion for music. It trains them to play a musical instrument, thus helps them to fund for themselves. Apart from giving these children a better life, this kind of a training also helps in keeping the arts alive.
The music training given to the children of Venezuela is a long term program. Those students who stick to this program then go on to play for the Youth Orchestra and receive a stipend for doing so.
The United Nations has partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank for this project. Together, they finance instruments for the orchestra including violins, drums, clarinets and pianos among others. According to Alas, about 99% of the children at the programme begin their training with an instrument funded by the United Nations and the Inter-American Development Bank.
This programme has been socially welcomed by the Venezuelans. In a situation where if the child does not pick up a musical instrument to learn it, he is likely to pick up a gun, this programme is being backed by the citizens of Venezuela.
The kind of support and encouragement provided by the United Nations to Nehyda Alas is slowly leading Venezuela to achieve their Millennium Development Goal of eradicating poverty.