Saturday, 1st November 2014

A string at a time


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Music may not be a basic need in life, but its therapeutic capacities cannot be ignored.

A brief but intense wave made of music passed through Kathmandu last month. Two Singaporean sisters, armed to the teeth with ukuleles, arrived in the valley to spread the message of hope through their music.

Christine and Alison Kam are part of the Ukulele Foundation, which “advocates Ukes for Change”. The Foundation was established one year ago in Melbourne, Australia, by Christine with the assistance of her sister and a team of volunteers. It is a nonprofit project that strives for giving young people a better chance to develop their own aspirations by teaching them how to play ukulele.

“I started it with the main aim of empowering girls, women and under-privileged children.” says Christine. “This can act like a platform to create awareness about important issues”

Christine and Alison spent two weeks in Kathmandu and held workshop with orphans and street children. On Christmas, they headed to Early Childhood Centre, run by CNN Hero Pushpa Basnet, where she shelters children whose parents are serving a sentence in jail.

“It changed the way I think about things and made me a better person,” Alison says.

She highlights how much the generosity of these kids, who constantly share their little food with their siblings, touched her thus increasing her social commitment. From Kathmandu, the duo headed to Mae Sot, Thailand, where they worked with young street beggars.

“Where tangible basic needs such as food, sanitation, hygiene and healthcare are taken care of by many other organizations and NGOs, music provides the third dimension to a multifaceted development of a child,” says Christine. “It takes away monotony and serves to drive, inspire and lift up the human spirit.”

The regular activities are carried out in Melbourne, where the Foundation offers long-term class of ukulele. The beneficiaries of the foundation are refugees’ children from Sudan, Ethiopia, Vietnam or Cambodia, who live in Melbourne’s suburbs and have difficulty integrating into Australian schools and society. The Foundation’s work does not consist only of ukulele class, it aims to constitute a source of cultural stimuli and career information for children.

“We spend time with the kids, build relationship with them as mentors and follow-up the progress,” points out Christine. So, both the sisters incite kids to read books and newspapers or study foreign languages; they ask them to keep in touch for any kind of suggestion and support.   

The foundation uses the medium of music to help children in dire situations channel their negative emotions, and provide alternatives against temptation of drugs, alcohol and violence.  

Says Christine: “When the human spirit is worked on magic can happen, kids stop drugs, get off the street, find hope and meaning in their lives.”


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