El Sistema Greece
With overcrowded refugee camps in the islands the Greek government opens new shelters within the mainland. In 2019 Sparta received over 300 refugees, while locals demonstrated their opposition and anger. El Sistema Greece sees the need to expand the successful program it implements in refugee camps of Attica, providing free music lessons & creating a platform for dialogue & togetherness through the joy of ensemble music playing in a small town where few creative communication tools are offered.
Sparta, Peloponnese, Greece - a town of 18,926 inhabitants and recent hotspot for refugee arrivals.
Sparta's aura has long faded since Plato: it is now one of Greece's most conservative towns. In a new challenge, this civic desert has become a refugee hotspot area while on top, locals still face a hard economic crisis accentuated by Covid19. Refugees are seen as a threat to the local economy, customs and cultural identity, they face exclusion and their children are missing years of education, playfulness and serenity. Cultural differences become barriers dividing people who live in such proximity and generate hatred and fear. Schools in Sparta are not accessible to the young refugees and the lack of any educational activities can become a major setback for their eventual integration. ESG suggests an intervention that will alter the chain of facts and bring social cohesion and acceptance.
Dialogue and active citizenship are core elements of a successful democracy. Our approach builds on effective methods from Venezuela’s social program El Sistema, adapted in over 60 countries and recognized as a tool for youth crime prevention by UNICEF. ESG uses the structure of group classes to resemble an ideal democracy translating music learning into acquisition of social values which empower students to gain agency over their lives. By organizing concerts with the participation of refugees and local talent we initiate a dialogue which hasn’t yet been achieved through words and offer a shared experience where these two worlds merge both on stage and in the audience. We no longer see refugees and locals but young musicians and parents sharing common pride for their children.
1.The refugees, including 80 children aged 0-8 trapped in Sparta Inn, not attending school or any activities. Our weekly lessons will provide a sense of wellbeing and stability, a mental and physical outlet,while restoring hope and pride in the parents. Performances will be held regularly to animate life in the hotel.
2.Local conservatories and musicians, offering at least 3 job openings, training programs from the ESG team and collaborative concerts outside the hotel to bring these two worlds together.
3.Local society: Through open community concerts locals acquire a new perspective, seeing refugees and their own children performing side by side as true musicians, realizing coexistence is possible. Voices of anger will subside while those reluctant to declare support will be empowered.
ESG is going to intervene in 3 stages.
1. Building trust within the people of Sparta Inn through an 11hr weekly music education program - specifically designed by the ESG team to meet the needs of these particular kids in a well-equipped space. Covid-19 Plan B: Expand the online platform that ESG created during lock down offering custom made digital lessons combined with interactive online classes.
2. Communicating the activities within Sparta Inn to the general public. Using our local teachers as ambassadors we will organize happenings and small concerts to attract the interest of the town’s residents.
3. Making music together: Once the soil is well prepared we will organize joint concerts of local music students playing side by side with the young musicians of ESG in Sparta Inn.
ESG is still a small organization, but its positive impact on its students and their families is evident. Through the enjoyment of ensemble music making, we aim at training the youth of Sparta Inn to develop a sense of agency in their lives and uplift their self-esteem. In December 2021, we want to see our program becoming the platform for facilitating social interactions between Spartans and refugees. We want to see kids from different backgrounds developing friendships through our joint activities so that they can experience the gifts and richness of diversity. Last, we seek to bring a change of perception, by which refugees are not only seen as a burden, but as human beings who need help and who have the potential to become useful resources for society.
In periods of crisis, civil society and NGOs have the hard task of raising sensitivity and compelling the authorities to more constant interventions. ESG activities highlight the positive aspects in the refugees’ personalities to naturally nurture affinity towards them, without trying to impose acceptance by force. This is an important step towards a collective Europe that supports the different communities and teaches tolerance and respect, the democratic path for coexisting in peace. As an NGO operating in the birthplace of Democracy, we aspire to once again set a paradigm, even from a remote town like Sparta, and promote pacific coexistence as the only approach for Europe to strengthen its democratic values, survive this crisis and support the countries severely hit by it, like Greece.
During our 4 years of operation, we have created personal relationships with our students and their families. Parents express their gratitude and they report how they enjoy having a happier child, who tends to be more helpful within the family and more active in the community. We have experienced first hand cases of young people who were lost and found a sense of identity through music. This is the fuel to our motivation of delivering high quality programs under difficult circumstances and reaching out to more communities. We have seen how the power of music builds bridges between diverse social groups and we see the urgency for it especially in Sparta: a town where far right political parties are popular and small children are isolated in the town’s center deprived of their childhood.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel Cost: 28,940 EUR
Pedagogical Advisor & Administration team salaries to oversee the Sparta development: 30,000 EUR
Instruments, Equipment, Sound insulation: 6,000 EUR
Trainings: 7,160 EUR
Concerts Production Costs: 7,000 EUR
Accountant & legal advice: 12,000 EUR
Arrangements & musical scores: 3,500 EUR
Printing materials: 1,000 EUR
T-shirts with logos: 800 EUR
Communications: 2,300 EUR
Maintenance & Storage of music instruments: 1,000 EUR
We would be thrilled to receive feedback and advice from the Civic Europe online community and get to know other similar projects or actors who would like to build partnerships. Change can only come when we unite our knowledge and experiences with like minded people and projects.