Music making has a power like no other form of communication to inspire and unite people. As well as the joy brought by one’s instinctive emotional reaction to a piece of music, having the opportunity to learn, play and perform has a tremendous effect on both an individual’s self-confidence and his or her ability to interact with others. This makes music an invaluable tool for combatting poverty, suffering and injustice.
Help for the disadvantaged
There are examples all over the world of music being used to help the disadvantaged, from the long established El Sistema in Venezuela which continues to raise children from poor families to the heights of professional musical excellence, to the more recent Brass for Africa project that builds communities by providing instruments and tuition for the poor in Uganda.
When we heard about Ukuleles for Ukraine, we jumped at the chance to help out. The uke is the perfect instrument for outreach projects as it’s easy to learn and easy to transport, and as the founders of Ukuleles for Ukraine say, it’s the world’s happiest instrument!
It’s difficult to discern the total scale of Ukraine’s orphan problem as the hardship its people have faced since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 have meant that the government has found it near impossible to keep accurate records. As a result, thousands of young people across the country are unregistered, and have become known as the ‘forgotten children’.
Abandoned at birth
Ukraine continues to be blighted by civil unrest, extreme poverty and widespread drug problems which in turn leads to the country having the highest population of HIV sufferers in Europe. As well as children orphaned by warfare and illness, many children are abandoned at birth by parents who cannot support them or believe that the state will do a better job, and yet more are taken into custody by authorities who deem parents unfit to care for them. A high proportion of these forgotten children have disabilities and health problems which the orphanages don’t know how or can’t afford to treat.
Orphanages in the country receive very little funding and rely heavily on volunteers. Very few are able to provide a proper diet or education to the children in their care, and many are rife with abuse and neglect. Some even recruit directly to the slave labour or sex industries. To make matters worse, those that do survive this unhappy childhood are stigmatised and branded as undesirable, often forbidden to marry or live alone and deprived of basic human rights.
Ukuleles for Ukraine
There are many UN initiatives already in action providing basic food, medicine and blankets to those most in need throughout Ukraine, but the bulk of the work is being done by charities and volunteers.
Ukuleles for Ukraine aims to make a small difference to the lives of the forgotten children by providing them with instruments and music lessons as well as doing what they can to help local volunteers buy basic supplies of clothes, toiletries and educational resources. Through making music they also hope to contribute much needed fun and laughter.
They made their first trip to Ukraine in April 2015 and the video below gives a moving account of their endeavours.
What can I do?
Octopus Ukulele proudly supports the work that Quinn, Mark and their friends are doing and share their faith in the ukulele’s ability to improve lives. If you’d like to help, there are three ways you can. The easiest is to donate some money via their GoFundMe page, but if you feel you can do more, take a look at their website for details on volunteering, fundraising and adopting orphans.