No Child is an Island. Experiences. Children International El Sistema program Dominican Republic
No human being is codified to come into the world to be an island, but there are circumstances that could at least make someone half an island. “The fatherland is childhood,” said Baudelaire; this is true not only for poetry but also for people, who have the potential to be happy or not. One of the worst experiences a child can suffer is rejection. Very often, either consciously or unconsciously, all children tend to suffer from it, especially the kind that comes from their classmates.
Forming the orchestra for “El Sistema” means establishing an order, each child has their place according to the instrument they play, and then depending on how long they have been studying, their abilities and their command of the instrument. However, especially in the violin section, we do not always place all “the best” players in the first row. We have created an order where an “average” student sits next “a gifted” one. The result is that the average player has support and the accomplished student develops teaching skills. An added bonus is, of course, a more balanced orchestral sound.
A consequence of this arrangement is that sometimes children with a big age gap share a lectern, for example, a child and a teenager. So, what have I seen? The teenager rejects the child, because of her age and in other cases because she is the new kid in the orchestra. The child in return will also rebuff the adolescent. So we are presented with a case of rejecting rejection. My answer in these situations has been, “but this person plays very well,” with an undertone that rather suggests “you are lucky to have this person as your partner.”
Gradually, we have gained more acceptance, safety and happiness for the “half islands” and against “the islands” who believe they are the whole archipelago.
I started working for the programme because I needed a job. As the position was that of a music instructor, I knew I was really going to enjoy it because I love teaching, even though I sometimes end up exhausted because of the huge age difference and because there are many children. But I feel the satisfaction, what I am doing, what we are all doing, is so worth it.
The children have gradually improved, they are more self-aware, more committed, they feel important. Sometimes when they haven’t studied enough they feel ashamed when they get asked a question. This is a good sign, they realise they haven’t done the right thing.
I have been able to observe that the camp has been a kind of engine, the kids are more motivated, there’s more camaraderie. They believe their classes have an aim, a purpose, that goes beyond learning, they realise others can enjoy what they are doing.
Our donors have a very important role in all this. They are committed people. I feel they truly care for the development of our children and adolescents. Apart from the resources they provide, their presence ensures continuous monitoring and confidence.