In Bolivia, 22-year-old Griselda has a passion for traditional instruments, and has learned to play as a means to teach others about traditional Bolivian culture.
Griselda can play four different traditional instruments, including the Zampoña, a type of flute. While it’s unusual for a woman to play instruments in her culture, she’s felt empowered to break stereotypes while preserving cultural identity, and even plays in a popular all-women’s group called Enclave.
“In our culture, women are not expected to play the instruments but rather dance to their rhythm,” Griselda said. “This makes me twice as proud because I not only play native music, I am also a woman. I am happy that I am able to help break stereotypes and maybe make it easier for younger girls who wish to get into music.”
Griselda not only uses music as a means of teaching about her culture, but also for her own relaxation. She believes that music is an “exercise for the soul” that helps her build a strong mind and leads to being a better student.
She recently retired from the Unbound program through which she was sponsored for 15 years by Mimi in New York. Now, she’s focusing on her third year in medical school and continuing her passion of playing music, with the firm belief that her sponsor’s support helped bring her this far.
For Unbound scholarship student Edison in Ecuador, playing music is a way to seek peace in his life — especially amidst the loneliness he experienced after his mother left the family. Learning from his brother how to play the guitar, Edison, 16, finds that music helps him to set aside his problems and focus — even when he’s playing “Back in Black” by the rock band ACDC.
Edison can play by ear now, listening to a song and figuring it out on his own. But it didn’t start out so easily.
“[At first] it was hard for me to play the chords.They sounded awful and I didn’t practice,” Edison said. “But sometimes I was sad and that was when I dedicated more time to the guitar. I did my best and after a couple years I noticed I was able to play any song I liked.
“I forget about everything when I play the guitar. It makes me feel peace.”
When Edison’s not playing the guitar, he’s often in school or volunteering at the local Unbound office as part of the scholarship program. He hopes to be an engineer someday, and is grateful for his scholarship and his sponsor, John in Oregon, for the opportunity to go to school.
In Colombia, Kevin , 15, spends his free time writing hip-hop lyrics. His songs are inspired by his journey and the dream he has for his family. Sponsored since he was 10 years old by Mark and Barbara in New York, Kevin uses the support of sponsorship and his music to better his life and his neighborhood.
In Kevin’s community, drug use is a problem and he not only writes songs about the issue, but uses music as a way to lead his peers away from drugs and into something creative.
“I really like soccer and singing, so when I am not at school, I am inside writing, singing and with my friends,” Kevin said. “I have a group of friends with whom I try to keep busy with the same things.”
He’s written lyrics about the experience of youth, and the hardship of his cousin in jail. He’s also had the opportunity to perform at a local fair, and often performs for friends and family, who all support and encourage him in his music.
While Kevin’s passion is music, his aspiration is to go to school to study medicine. Which vocation will be primary and which will be a hobby, though, is yet to be seen.
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