The Ubuntu Music Program: Strengthening Community through Music and Athletics

Collective submission from members of the Playing For Change Foundation

The Playing For Change Foundation has been working in Rwanda since 2011, using music and sports as tools for positive change and education. Ubuntu is a Bantu word that means “humanity towards others”; the Ubuntu Philosophy is a humanist concept that could be summed up as “I am because we are,” and is based on the idea that there is a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. This way of thinking inspired the name of our program in Rwanda: the Ubuntu Music Program.

Photo: Playing for Change.

The Ubuntu Music Program currently provides free music education to roughly 150 students across two schools. Located in Masaka and Kigali, these schools include children and teenagers between 8 and 20 years old. Youths from these underserved communities do not always have access to cultural activities that are tailored specifically for them, so we focus on traditional music and dance in order to transmit and preserve the African cultural heritage. In addition to those elements, students have the option to take modern music and sports classes as well. We think that combining music and sports is a powerful way to engage youths to create change in their own lives—contributing to both their personal development and their understanding of teamwork.

Photo: Playing for Change.

Even though the program has been around for a few years now, we continue to face the same challenges as the group of kids keeps growing. We are always raising money for new instruments—or to repair the old ones. The same is true for our facilities and other equipment, which we are always working to update and improve. Right now, our long-term goal for this and any of our programs is to expand, hire additional music instructors to reach more students in more schools, and create a music and dance center in the Kigali program. We recently created a local NGO in Rwanda in order to help bolster our national mission and find supporters who can help us increase our impact.

Desmond Tutu said, “A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.” Every day we are pleased to see our students work alongside one another in pursuit of a greater artistry and stronger community.

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