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Haiti: Music keeping children out of gangs in Port au prince

The nonprofit Music Heals International, Haiti   -  
Copyright © africanews


In Haiti's capital, it is not unusual to hear loud crashes that many associate with the gangs who have torn this city apart. But today this is not violence, but music.

Hundreds of children across Port-au-Prince are banging on drums, fumbling through piano scales, and strumming guitars.

The nonprofit Music Heals International wants to distract them from the poverty and violence of their daily lives.

The after-school music program is an oasis for children confined indoors as killings and kidnappings surge, with gangs recruiting kids as young as eight.

11-year-old Woodberson Seide could not contain his smile as he struck a sharp new beat on the cymbal of a drum set he would like to call his own.

Many of the children meet twice a week to play for two hours as the rat-tat-tat of gunfire echoes daily across Port-au-Prince.

Gangs are estimated to control up to 80% of Port-au-Prince, with more than 2,400 people reported killed this year. Rapes and kidnappings also have spiked, and families are reluctant to send their children to school, let alone allow them to play outdoors, leaving few outlets for fun.

Gang violence also has left nearly 200,000 people homeless including Woodberson and his family.

The Seides once lived in Canaan, a makeshift community established in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince by those who survived the 2010 earthquake. In April, gangs raided the community and forced many to flee.

Woodberson's father, Jean Williams Seide, said gangs raided his family home and left them with nothing.

He spoke fondly of his son's new musical opportunities.

“Since the age of seven years old, we've always seen him with a small stick in his hand banging on buckets,” he said.

Overseeing the program is Emmanuel Piervil.

He says music has other benefits. His pupils are doing better in school, and their parents are less worried they’ll join gangs.

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