Thirteen-year-old Çiya lives with his family in an abandoned factory in the Atahweeta neighbourhood of Beirut, Lebanon, an area that is known for poor living conditions, hostility and discrimination against refugees.

Çiya and his family are Kurdish refugees from Syria. As refugees, they face restrictions around what kind of work they are allowed to do. Most of the jobs available to them involve semi-skilled physical labour, and pay wages that don’t cover their needs. These conditions forced Çiya to find work at a local auto body shop so he could help his family. He went to work each morning and returned home exhausted. With no time or energy to play with his friends, Çiya began feeling purposeless and even more out of place.

Through different forms of music, the Music For Development project aims to provide a vehicle for children like Çiya to explore and express their feelings, learn critical life skills like confidence, collaboration and communication, and advocate for their rights. The program creates a safe space for them to explore their fears and face their challenges through the transformative power of music. When Çiya was invited to join the program by RTP staff, he was recovering from a motorcycle accident that severely injured one of his legs, making it difficult for him to walk. For the first few months, his mother carried him on her back to every session so that he could participate.

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Çiya performing on stage at the Music For Development event

In August 2019, Çiya and more than 300 refugee and marginalized children from Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian backgrounds performed in a public concert, accompanied by renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Orchestra. The songs they performed had been written by the children, and focused on social issues like discrimination, racism and care for the environment, using their voices to promote positive change in their communities.

“Through this program I learned communication skills. I learned to be determined, stay self-confident, listen to others and respect their point of view and this will help me to achieve my life goals.” – Çiya

In the Music For Development program, Çiya found a way to build back his confidence and the skills he needs to pursue his dreams.