By: Vladimir Kislinger
Published: July 7, 2023
Updated: July 10, 2023

Tampa refugee children get a new
opportunity through music

A symphony orchestra of Hispanic origin is literally changing the lives of dozens of refugee children in Tampa who, despite adversity, have come to the Bay with their families in search of a better future.

For teenager Rita López, it was not easy to leave her country, Venezuela. She painfully remembers how this change has affected her life. “That duel, that transition of not being at home anymore, in my comfort, in my comfort zone, of not seeing my friends, at my school.”

Rita is part of a program for refugee children offered by the Sunstate Orchestral Program, an initiative that from Tampa seeks to use music as a therapeutic resource. “If I told my self from the past, from my 2022, everything that I have done here, I would not believe it. I have very good moments in the orchestra and I hope to continue creating them and in fact I never imagined I would be playing around with people or anything”.

Francisco Díaz is the founder of this initiative inspired by the System of Orchestras of Venezuela and which plays an important role for the integration of the most vulnerable, refugee children.

“Create community, create values, but based on orchestral activity. There is no more perfect community than the orchestra”, says Díaz.

Four years of project that already leaves a firm mark.

“Currently, we have more than 163 children, we have impacted more than 400 families with the program (…) that smile is really what we are looking for in each child,” Díaz expressed with satisfaction.

That smile was seen on the face of María Gabriela Blanco, who remembers what it took for her to reach American soil.

When Vladimir Kislinger, a reporter for Tampa Today News, asked Blanco what her arrival in Tampa Bay had been like, she recalled the journey of reaching the United States with her family on foot.

After a year in Tampa, María Gabriela affirms that she has found a safe refuge in the orchestra, along with her companions.

“All I know is that it was terrible, horrible. I would really like to forget it and that’s why I’m in the orchestra to really get rid of all those bad memories (…) I think it’s the only thing that I really feel that distracts me, that makes me think about other things and notice how beautiful it is, how how beautiful it can be,” said Blanco.

To read the original article, please visit the Tampa Bay Times website here.


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