PARAGUAY: Vulnerable youth take part in orchestra
Don Bosco Róga Children’s and Youth Symphony Orchestra supports 250 young musicians
(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Róga, an educational center located in Asunción, Paraguay, provides support to more than 2,000 youth in situations of vulnerability. One of its projects is the Don Bosco Róga Children’s and Youth Symphony Orchestra for 250 young people. The project launched in 2003 thanks to the support of international organizations.
Initially, the program was set up for youth living in the Salesian center, but over time it was extended to the whole community. The project is led by a staff of 27 educators and professionals and is aimed at youth ages 8-25. The project does welcome people of all ages and currently has two seniors who are 73 and 76 years old.
Teachers provide lessons on 26 instruments including violin, cello, flute, oboe, bassoon, trumpet and symphonic percussion. There are also singing, dance and theater lessons offered from Monday to Friday in the afternoon and on Saturday mornings. While the lessons focus on music, there are many life skills taught in the program. One Salesian said, “Our goal is not to train exceptional musicians, but to be a tool for saving human lives.”
Mary, age 14, has been part of the orchestra for six years. “I signed up because I had learning problems and was told that when you study music you become smarter, and it really helps me to perform better, both in school and socially. I play the violin and the cello.” Manuel, age 11, explained that he is happy to belong to the orchestra because he saw his sister playing the violin from an early age and wanted to become part of the group.
The project is free to those who wish to join. Renan Reckziegel, artistic director of the orchestra, explained, “Our desire is to continue to progress in the balance between the technical-musical and human and Christian development of all the beneficiaries. We want every young person to develop their musical skills and apply them to life and their environment.”
The orchestra plays symphonic, classical, folk, popular and Andean music. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it would hold more than a dozen concerts and meetings with other youth musical groups. It has collected several national and international awards, and has recorded several albums.
The pandemic has put the project on hold for now because lessons must be held online and not all children can follow. The goal is to resume the project when it’s safe to do so.
Salesian missionaries have been working in Paraguay since establishing a church in Asunción in 1896. Paraguay is among the poorest countries in South America. According to UNICEF, almost 23 percent of its population of 6.5 million people lives in poverty earning less than $1 per day. The gap between the small upper class and the large lower class is extreme and offers virtually no social mobility.
Conditions of poverty drive youth into early labor and a lack of literacy, in addition to a weak educational foundation, compounds the problem. Those in poverty face overcrowding, low quality housing and a lack of access to basic household services. Paraguayans who only graduate from primary school are twice as likely to live in poverty as those who have access to and complete secondary school.
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UNICEF – Paraguay
World Bank – Paraguay