Since the late 60s I have professionally worked with families going through crisis and disappointment. Throughout the years poverty, addictions, homelessness, lack of work due to struggles with obtaining an education and skills, and struggles maintaining heathy relationships have been constants no matter the year or place. Yet, through all of these struggles every family I have ever worked with also had strengths. They wanted a better life for their children, they wanted to have choices for themselves and their families and they wanted to feel pride in their own personal achievements no matter how big or small. The other strength was the calmness and strength they felt through music. I have many stories of success and failure and in that spirit, I would like to recommend the El Sistema Aeolian program as part of your 90th Anniversary gift to our community. The original El Sistema Aeolian program was founded in Venezuela in 1975. This initiative has grown to include programs in more than 90 countries. El Sistema Aeolian, a program of London's renowned performing arts centre, was founded in 2011 as a free, after-school, intensive music program. It includes orchestra, choir, free instruments while in the program, hot meals, leadership development opportunities and a social curriculum that includes peer mentoring, professional mentorship, social-emotional connection, mindfulness training and opportunities to experience music in and outside the classroom. A friend invited me to one of their many concerts and I was suddenly in a room of persons where I always wanted to be. No matter where you looked or sat you were surrounded by parents and extended families beaming with pride and taking endless numbers of pictures. I had no idea at that time of the reasons the children were here or the story of the families around me, but what I did know is they entrusted their children to this program and they at that moment could only be the proud parent I had worked to see all of my working life. The children too, looked back with smiles and felt proud that their parents were so proud of them and their achievements. It doesn't sound to most to be that unusual, but to me it was magical. From that day I became a donor and supporter. I eventually joined the Aeolian Board and proudly had to quit when I became the El Sistema Aeolian Program Coordinator. If we should be chosen as one of the finalists, I would like to use this donation to have our program develop a means to communicate with El Sistema programs all over the world. Many of the families in our program are new to Canada and English is not their first language. Many have said that they would love to help us find and communicate with these programs. The dream is do the same concert in all of these programs during the same month with shared music from Canada and El Sistema programs all over the world that we make contact. Truly this would be a Gift of Music and a Gift of Community in honour of your contribution to our community these past 90 years.
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