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At a glance: Haiti

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Berliner Philharmoniker gives the gift of music to Haitian schools

By Mariana Palavra

PORT-AU-PRINCE/JACMEL, Haiti, 23 February 2012 – While the UNICEF truck was being unloaded, dozens of heads peered through the narrow windows of the classrooms. The students from Vision Nouvelle School – which was reconstructed by UNICEF after the 2010 earthquake – were curious about the musical instruments slowly emerging from the truck.

© UNICEF Haiti/2012/Palavra
Eight-year-old Liz Curie Alexandre plays one of 30 new violins donated to her school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

After some 60 musical instruments had been unloaded, the school principal called students attending music classes to open the boxes, tune and begin to play. 

Liz Curie Alexandre, 8, was the youngest of the group. Even after receiving permission from the music teacher, she was afraid to open the violin box. Wide eyed, she quietly enjoyed every minute of the unveiling.

“I started studying music theory and playing violin two years ago in this school,” Liz recalled. “I loved it since the beginning, and I don’t ever want to leave music.”

The gift of music

© UNICEF Haiti/2012/Palavra
Fritz Valescot, co-founder, at the Music School Dessaix-Baptiste in Jacmel, Haiti.

Nouvelle Vision School, located in Port-au-Prince, is one of three Haitian schools that have just received 220 instruments donated by the Berliner Philharmoniker, which, in 2007, was the first institution to be named an international UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

“Music is fundamental for children and youth development,” explained Gilbert Buteau, UNICEF Youth and Adolescent Specialist in Haiti. “It is a channel of communication and expression – extremely important, especially for vulnerable children, who don’t have a family support. It is a way out for them.”

Fritz Valescot couldn’t agree more. In 1997, he co-founded the Music School Dessaix-Baptiste in the southern city of Jacmel.

“We started with 50 students and around 20 instruments,” he recalled. Today, 1,260 people, from 6 to 52 years old, attend the classes; the majority of them don’t pay any fees. “They are orphans, live in residential care centres, are victims of the restavek system or are street children,” he said.  “The music gives back their dignity.”

© UNICEF Haiti/2012/Palavra
Geraldine Adolphe and her students unpack instruments at the Nouvelle Vision School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

“These 75 new instruments from Berliner Philharmoniker will make a huge difference, especially those that we never had before, such as the double horn, the baritone horn or the bassoons,” Mr. Valescot said.

Carried away by music

Back in Port-au-Prince, 14-year-old Astremon Clive Wood is dreaming about playing with a bigger group now that his school doubled its number of musical instruments.

“I started playing the cello last year after watching a film in which Jamie Fox plays the same instrument,” he explained. Now, he wants much more from music. “I want to be carried by music and go where it will take me.”

He’ll have soon that opportunity.

Thanks to the generous donation of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Berliner Philharmoniker, Nouvelle Vision School will hold its first concert in June.



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