Saving Children From Poverty To The Sound Of Music

A child who blossoms in music with an instrument as a friend and an orchestra as a school of life, grows, closer to an ideal society, whereby love moves human actions.

The Falcone-Borsellino orchestra playing with violinist Maria Stella Patuzzi on board Italian Coast Guard ship ‘Dattilo’

Statistics. A cold word to define a cold reality. I’m not fond of numbers but they help us understand.

We lose six million children in the world, every year, to easily curable illnesses. In poor countries, 58 million children don’t go to school. Here where I live, in Italy, over one million children live in absolute poverty. These are the numbers reported by Save the Children. Raw digits, innocent lives, each with a story to tell.

When my friend Alfia Milazzo returned to Sicily in 2004 she noticed something terrible. Poverty had increased and children were suffering. The impact of witnessing social deterioration among youth drove Alfia to leave her job in Milan and return to her beloved island. In 2009 Alfia helps found ‘La Città Invisibile’ (The Invisible City), a non profit organization that aims at pulling away poor children from the tentacles of mafia through music, art and literature. In 2010 the organization launches ‘La Scuola di Vita e Orchestra Falcone-Borsellino’ (School of Orchestra and Life Falcone-Borsellino), a children’s orchestra whose method of study is based on maestro Antonio José Abreu’s, El Sistema. Through music and memory children learn the beauty of values otherwise lost to the clutch of poverty. Binding their accomplishments to the names of important Italian heroes like Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino creates a sense of identity and pride in knowing they are bringing culture, love and passion to their land and community. Every performance denotes empathy with the surrounding environment, it connects sound to heart.

In 2016, 142 000 migrants fled their war stricken homelands in a desperate attempt to reach Italy. Over 3 000 lost their lives while crossing the sea.

Between October 3rd and 4th, 2016, ten thousand human beings were saved by the Italian Coast Guard in the Sicilian Strait. As one of the rescue ships, the ‘Dattilo’, made its way to the Port of Catania three newborns saw the light.

Courtsey of the Italian Coast Guard-newborns with mother on board the ‘Dattilo’ rescue vessel

On a cold, rainy December afternoon, as many of us around the world prepared to celebrate the coming of Jesus, the children’s orchestra Falcone-Borsellino played in concert on board the ‘Dattilo’ accompanied by violinist Mariastella Patuzzi. I can’t help but imagine their melody echoing throughout the vessel, chaperoning both rescued and rescuers along their journey toward hope. I see bridges being built, hands, reaching out. At every strike of a chord walls crumble. The power of music, the power of an instrumnet in the hands of a child is honesty and truth in a world where the voracity of power often suffocates the cry of those in need.

No, it’s not about numbers. It’s about bringing mankind together in equality and peace. It’s about letting the heart be the guide of our actions. This is the lesson children teach us every single day. The paradox is that we hardly remember being children ourselves.