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Seeking peace through music
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Seeking peace through music

As the co-founder of ‘Rhythm of Cyprus’, Maria runs an education programme that uses music as a peacebuilding tool to connect Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot children, and to build sustainable communities based on inclusion and understanding. The team lead of ‘Sistema Cyprus’, Maria also provides free music education to migrants, refugees and underprivileged children. Commonwealth Correspondent Muhammed Badamasi from Nigeria spoke with Maria about her programme and journey.

The Commonwealth Youth Awards, one of the largest international programmes that awards young people for their work, was hosted. The awards featured twenty finalists from across the Commonwealth, with regional winners and an overall winner selected in the end. As is customary, this year featured the work of young people in different fields ranging from science to education and health. One of the finalists caught my attention with her innovative music education project, which has benefitted more than 2,000 children so far.  So, I sat down with Maria Kramvi to talk about the award and get insight into her personal life and what led her to this point.

Maria is a musician and music professional from Cyprus, who currently leads the Larnaca wind orchestra of Sistema Cyprus, a non-governmental organisation that uses music to bring children of various backgrounds together. She is also the founder of Rhythm of Cyprus, a project she started in 2019 that uses music to connect children from the divided Greek and Turkish sections of the island. While many view music as a hobby, Maria has leaned in wholeheartedly by using music as a way to address issues in her community. When I ask her what made her think this was possible, her passion is evident. “As a musician, I experienced that music had the power to break barriers. It has the power to make us stop thinking and start to feel. So, I tried to use the creativity that music brings.” 

As Cyprus struggles with a refugee crisis that has shaped its cultural make-up, this has led to a social divide, a separation of groups which inevitably affects children. It is why the Sistema Cyprus and Rhythm of Cyprus initiatives are pivotal and come at the right time. According to Maria, “the hope for a peaceful co-existence in Cyprus relies on the actions of young people who share the same vision of peaceful co-existence on the island.” So, she partnered with other musicians and youth who share a similar dream, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Her projects have had huge impacts. Lanarca wind orchestra of Sistema Cyprus raises awareness in the community about music and diversity. They have created a strong circle of artists, volunteers and other people who bring their skills together and support their community in various ways. Maria believes this impacts not only the children but also other members of the public who develop a sense of belonging.

The programmes also help children dream and believe that they can do anything through the skills they are being equipped with. They are given the confidence to set goals and pursue them. Systema Cyprus also partners with universities in Cyprus that give opportunities to study music and other courses. 

So far, Rhythm of Cyprus has organised a training for tutors on how to use music to accelerate skills development, it has completed several other music and peacebuilding projects, and Maria plans to do more. Improving her knowledge of music, she believes, would increase her ability to help effect the changes she envisions. It is one of the reasons she started a Ph.D. at the Open University of Cyprus with her research area being music education and peace education. Her aim is to have access to more data to prove that what she has been able to achieve with music in education and development is sustainable, especially in Cyprus.   

Her goal in the next five years is to scale Rhythm of Cyprus further that it reaches other people and schools. Although she has faced several challenges, funding still remains the most significant barrier to the speed with which the programme executes plans. However, with the help and support of similar organisations, this challenge has been mitigated mildly. 

When I ask her about the impact of being selected as a finalist in the Commonwealth Youth Awards, Maria reveals she was ecstatic, especially since this is her first nomination for an international award. “I did not believe I could be nominated and especially make it to the last 20 finalists in the world,” she says, still with tinge of disbelief. It’s understandable, considering the awards had thousands of entries from all around the Commonwealth. 

Towards the end of our conversation, I discover that we share similar hobbies. In her spare time, time Maria enjoys going to the beach, reading and cooking. Her lifelong passion is using music to achieve peace and cohesion.

For other young people who want to achieve similar objectives in their environment she believes that certain things will help them go a long way. Speaking to several people about your goals and finding people with similar objectives will make the work less herculean. She also believes that there is a lot to learn from other people in different environments who have done what you want to do, so it helps to research and learn from their journey.

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Photo Credit: Commonwealth

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About Muhammed Badamasi: I am an enthusiast of expression in its various forms, from music to writing. I am also an advocate for good governance and accountability. When I am not writing or pretending to like legal work, I am learning from the thoughts and experiences of people around the world.

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The Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work highlights the contributions of young people who are making a difference in their communities and celebrates their contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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