AUGUST 6, 2010

OAS Youth Orchestra Program in Haiti Resilient

OASIS Press release

A month ago, a collection of fifty-five instruments was shipped to the Ecole Saint Trinité in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in support of Haiti’s national youth orchestra program, an OAS-led initiative based at the Ecole which seeks to foster social inclusion through musical engagement and the promotion of community values. The arrival of these instruments represents a small but significant step in the rebuilding process the program has undertaken in the aftermath of the January 12 earthquake.

The shipment was made on July 2 by Airline Ambassadors, in partnership with the Inter-American Culture and Development Foundation (IACDF). The instruments were supplied by the IACDB through its Bank of Musical Instruments as well as through donations of used instruments Allegro Music Center, the program’s provider in Miami. A shipment of over one hundred more is expected to arrive soon with the aid of the US Episcopal Church.

The program in Haiti has been undergoing a slow but steady rebuilding process since the January 12 earthquake destroyed the school in which it was housed. A rudimentary wood awning has been constructed on the original site of the Ecole, and the program is currently raising funds (approximately $75,000) to construct a sturdier, hurricane- and earthquake-proof structure with classrooms. A larger fundraising effort, directed towards the rebuilding of the school and its auditorium as a part of the Episcopal University of Haiti, is also in progress. As new government regulations stipulate that no new buildings are to be constructed along the fault line (where the original school was located), the location of this more permanent structure has yet to be determined.

 A two-day trauma workshop was conducted for program participants by a specialist in trauma issues who is both a member of the US Episcopal Church as well as a volunteer with the youth orchestra itself. The workshop was conducted with a view to helping students process the changes that had taken place in their lives over the past few months, and it was in keeping with the program’s mission of providing participants with sources of support, stability, and community.

 Students and community members alike have become involved in the rebuilding process. In her discussion of a debris clean-up performed by one hundred and sixty-two students (eighty of whom were program participants) on July 10, Bernadette Williams, the local program coordinator, stated that students and parents of all socioeconomic backgrounds were able to find collective enjoyment despite the intensity of the experience. Three radio stations and national television channels were present to record the event, bearing testimony to the passion of, and solidarity between, the program’s participants.

An OAS monitoring mission recently returned from Haiti with encouraging reports. Mariano Vales, Coordinator of Musical Programs for the Department of Cultural Affairs, assessed that the functioning of the center exceeded expectations. Its instructors, he said, have created solid structures within the school which permit them to work effectively. Perhaps most importantly, the students approach the program with enthusiasm and their instructors with affection and respect. Numerous parents have commended the program, discussing the positive effects that it has had on their children’s lives. During meetings with representatives from the Ministries of Tourism and Education, members of the monitoring mission urged for government involvement in the measurement of the program’s impact as well as for the implementation of the program’s curriculum at a national level.

The Haitian youth orchestra program derives significant financial support from such organizations as the OAS/FEMCIDI, the governments of Colombia, Venezuela, and Korea, and Yéle Haiti. Colombia’s Batuta Foundation, Venezuela’s FESNOJIV, and YOA-Orchestra of the Americas offered training assistance, and Brazil’s Viva Rio sponsored a series of concerts given by the school’s faculty.

Airline Ambassadors, the organization which shipped the instruments, provides humanitarian aid to communities worldwide and is the world’s only airline charity.

The successful shipment of instruments, and, more broadly, the program’s rebuilding project, has engaged diverse individuals and geographically disparate organizations. Far from undermining the long-term success of the orchestra, this chapter in the program’s story serves as a testament to the local and global commitment to music and to community in Haiti. It reflects a faith in the power of community-oriented musical education as a vehicle for social transformation and is thus a source of encouragement for all communities worldwide which seek creative, engaging solutions to their social challenges.

 OAS Youth Orchestra Program in Haiti Resilient Thara Norde conducts the OASIS orchestra under a temporary tent in Port-au-Prince. The ruins of Sainte Trinité can be seen in the background.


Haiti Relief Efforts:
Rebuilding Sainte Trinité

The Youth Orchestra Program in Haiti experienced a major setback when the Program’s host school, the Ecole de Musique Sainte Trinité, was destroyed during the 2010 earthquake. 

Since the OASIS program started, Sainte Trinité served as a venue for the disadvantaged youths of Bel-Air. If we put our efforts together we can bring back the program and help rebuild the school.

› Click here to see what we are doing and to get involved.