By: Juan Carlos Chavez
Times staff Writer
Photos by: Ivy Ceballo
Published: July 3, 2023
Tampa program for refugee kids
offers harmony and inspiration
‘Music for Refuge’ aims to transform the lives of students through music and integrating them into the community.
Sebastian and Braulio Vasquez, 13-year-old twins from Venezuela, want to keep fighting for their dream, pursue higher education, and continue studying music, their true passion. They know that the future is in their hands.
“I really like playing my violin,” said Sebastian. “My cello is my instrument,” said Braulio.
Both are part of a program in Tampa for children from immigrant and refugee families. The initiative, known as ‘Música para Refugiarte’ (Music for Refuge), is an educational project by the nonprofit group Sunstate Orchestral Program.
‘Music for Refuge’ encourages the development and appreciation of artistic and musical skills. It aims to transform the lives of students through music, integrating them into the community and providing them with a space to interact with fellow students and teachers.
Francisco Diaz, the nonprofit’s founder, said the program has helped 120 children over the past year.
“It creates spaces based on a musical community where strategies for education, diversity, emotional stability, and peace can be found,” he said.
One of the teachers, Jesus Sira, said the program also provides students with security, hope, and motivation through the power of music.
The Vasquez twins are a good example.
They came to the United States with their parents, Roger and Naelith Vasquez, and their 9-year-old younger sister, Dana, who is also a student taking flute and piano lessons. The family reached the southern border over two years ago, hoping for asylum. The mother said the program has been supporting her kids in adjusting to a new country and culture, as well as helping them make new friends.
“They are doing great because music relaxes them,” she said.
Another student and refugee from Venezuela, Samantha Segura, 15, said she feels more empowered when she plays her violin and shares time and classes with other kids with similar stories. Her 11-year-old brother Carlos is also a violin student.
“We come every day and we really enjoy it,” said Samantha. “It feels like home.”
To read the original article, please visit the Tampa Bay Times website here.
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