In 2011, I joined an organisation called Songbound, founded by Joe Walters from the UK. This organisation is committed to bringing music to various marginalised youth in Mumbai. I chose to visit Navjeevan, an organisation based in Kamathipura, the red light district in Mumbai. My perception of life changed when I saw the plight of the children of commercially sexually exploited women. These children had been stripped of their childhood. They had to erase their identities and start from scratch. They had to disconnect themselves from society for years to adopt this new identity and hence had to painfully detach themselves from their mothers, too. I spent a day at this refuge where they were sent and it broke my heart to see these children I had grown so fond of, go through such trauma early in life.
In 2012, I started providing music sessions at Prerana, an anti-trafficking organisation in Kamathipura. Here, I spent the next four years, building a choir and learning more about these children. Despite their abusive childhood, the youth at Prerana had an unbreakable spirit and a will to do something meaningful in life and look out for each other. During one of our songwriting sessions, several children agreed that their worst fear was being sold for money. I could not understand why, in such a developing and spiritual country as India, these children were lacking social support and why there was such stigma attached to the area. Something needed to change.
Presently, I am a Community Music student at Wilfrid Laurier University in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada. I believe in the power of music and have experienced its healing effects on the children, who also reported to their counsellors about how much peace and joy it brought to their lives. I have also had the privilege to witness numerous community music projects in KW, Canada, where marginalised communities have benefitted from cross-cultural exchanges. They have been the inspiration behind the inception of Yuva Arts Project.
How can we envision a future for the marginalised youth of today?
How can we expose them to a world very different to theirs so they may transform themselves and break through the barriers and limitations imposed by society?
How can we help them become self-made, independent individuals with dignity, who can lead and inspire their communities going forward?
The Yuva Arts Project is dedicated to bringing together marginalised youth from various cultures to create change through the medium of arts. One person cannot bring about change. It takes a village to raise a child.
My deepest gratitude to the YUVA team, Dr. Gerard Yun (our mentor), Prerana, MT Space, Reception House/Community Justice Initiatives, Healing of the Seven Generations, our collaborators & our generous donors and followers for their trust and support.