The Shropshire Music Foundation provides free musical instruments and instruction to former child soldiers and refugees in some of the world’s most wartorn places: Uganda, Kosovo, and Northern Ireland. Since 1999, we have taught more than 14,000 young people that through music they can bring healing, hope, and peace to their communities.
The Shropshire Music Foundation mission is to redress psychosocial trauma, advance emotional health, develop scholastic achievement, foster ethnic tolerance, promote peace, and improve the quality of life for war-affected children and adolescents through the establishment of on-going music education and performance programs.
Our programs implement recommendations issued by the United Nations and UNICEF in their report on the “Impact of Armed Conflict on Children” (1996). The report found that the most effective child war trauma relief programs provide “opportunity for expression and structured activities such as school, play and sports.” UN Expert Graca Machel cited music, theater, and arts education programs, especially those based in local culture.
Our youth volunteer training programs also respond to UN and UNICEF findings on the acute war-related needs of adolescents. Adolescents have special emotional health related needs and face specific challenges, including intensive family care burdens and recruitment or impressment into armed conflict. Even so, Ms. Machel writes, “Adolescents, during or after wars, seldom receive any special attention or assistance.” Her report suggests that “one particularly effective way to give adolescents a sense of meaning and purpose is to involve them in developing and implementing programmes for younger children in the community.”
Responding to the needs of our target population and expert findings, our programs are designed to meet these objectives:
- Address participants’ war-related emotional and developmental needs, particularly psychosocial trauma
- Provide structured opportunities for play, learning, group interaction, self-discipline, and self-expression
- Foster a sense of accomplishment, problem-solving skills, and listening skills in conflict-impacted children
- Foster tolerance, understanding, and socialization through shared activity and identity
- Build cognitive skills, including logic, memory, computation, and analysis
- Establish employment, volunteer, and leadership opportunities for youths and adults
- Promote our youth volunteers as positive local role models for children
- Grow communication, cooperation, and understanding among ethnic and religious communities
- Create sustainable community-based, community-led opportunities for social change
- Develop positive peer networks and diversionary programming to prevent youth violence and drug and alcohol use
- Teach peace and tolerance to youth and children through songs and activities
Among the documented results of our programming are significantly improved rates of secondary school completion and college attendance. Among our Kosovo youth volunteers, 100% complete primary and secondary school, as compared to fewer than 40% of children in Kosovo at large. More than 90% of our Kosovo volunteers go on to attend college, as compared to 33% of high school graduates across Kosovo.