Despite unprecedented challenges this summer, our tireless staff and talented students have continued to make music and inspire hope.
Schools were slated to reopen on September 6th, but the government pushed it back to September 20th. We plan to restart music classes toward the middle of October, with four schools at a minimum. Our program manager, Jean Marc Didis, also plans to reach out to other institutions to host in-person classes, including churches and community centers.
Teach 2 Reach has continued successfully in community spaces during the pandemic as a safe way to continue in-person music instruction. It has also emerged as a dynamic way to engage older students who have grown through our music programming.
As the program has evolves, we are looking for innovative ways to transition our Teach 2 Reach peer mentors into full-fledged, trained music instructors, one of our longtime goals.
And finally, as you all know, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on August 14th and resulted in more than 1,400 deaths and 6,900 injuries. This happened shortly after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. These challenges are a stark reminder of why we created Music Heals International — to foster resilience in the face of trauma through the power of music. Our mission remains unchanged and more relevant than ever.
Summer Camp Success
In the face of significant challenges, our steadfast team in Haiti managed to pull off a successful Summer Camp for 57 students (30 boys and 27 girls).
Reflecting on the event, Jean Marc Didis said, “When you saw the looks on parents’ faces, it was a look of relief. During the final concert, they came to encourage their kids. It was pure joy.” This year’s Summer Camp was a stark reminder of the important role MHI plays for parents being able to send their children somewhere safe and fun.
Student Spotlight: Vilarson
One of the greatest successes of the year came from Summer Camp. Jean Marc wanted to share this story:
“I will not let my disability block my dream of becoming a musician,” says 18-year-old Marc Daniel Vilarson.
Vilarson is a music lover who travels more than 6 miles (2 hours by taptap, with traffic) each day to come to summer camp classes. Unfortunately, as a child, Vilarson was infected with typhoid, which left him with a weak and shaky right arm and speech impairment. However, he wants to become a guitarist and drummer.
Vilarson comes to practice every day with his mentor Michelson, who was in the music program from the beginning and is now giving back. Michelson and Vilarson are now buddies. Michelson reports that “even though his weak right arm prevents him from executing chords at the right tempo, Vilarson knows all the chords by heart and can tell you where to put your finger in the thread.” The duo performed at the summer camp mini-concert and Vilarson couldn’t be happier.
Vilarson lives in Canaan with his mother, his father being in Les Cayes, in the south, a place that was hit hard by the last devastating earthquake on August 14, fortunately he is safe. Many families in Haiti are now leaving Delmas or Port-au-Prince, to move to Canaan, a former tent city created after the January 12 earthquake that has become one of the largest slums in Haiti, where house rents are more affordable.
With his passion for school and music, Vilarson is optimistic about his future.