Founders of Play for Progress, winner of the 2017 H. Club Foundation's Philanthropic award, discuss their grassroots community-building charity and how you can support vulnerable teen refugees locally.
ALYSON AND ANNA founded Play for Progress in 2014 to make a difference in the lives of the world’s most vulnerable community, unaccompanied children fleeing overwhelming violence in their countries and seeking refuge in the UK .
The complex emotions that those escaping conflict experience are inconceivable to any of us fortunate enough to have lived in safety. Imagine that you're faced with the task of travelling on foot, thousands of miles to the UK. Imagine you've survived being abandoned in the Sahara by smugglers, you narrowly avoiding drowning in the Mediterranean, you were held captive by a terrorist organisation and escaped unlawful detention—now imagine doing it as a child, alone.
Being a teenager is hard enough before you add the severe trauma of such a journey, or any of the countless obstacles they have to conquer once they arrive in the UK.
Unaccompanied minor refugees find themselves alone in a strange country, without the use of their mother tongue, often struggling with PTSD and placed in foster care or hostels. Their entrance into education and safe social spaces is delayed or can be denied and the process of gaining asylum is arduous and lengthy.
What We Do
Play for Progress (PFP) is a London-based charity that delivers therapeutic and educational music programmes for young people impacted by conflict, to help them engage with, learn through, and explore their capabilities in music.
PfP offers them ways to connect with the diverse and overwhelming city that is London, to practice their language skills, to release tensions and find respite in a safe space. This allows them to forge supportive friendships and relationships while exploring and developing their own creative potential.
Our Croydon-based weekly music programme for unaccompanied minor refugees guarantees that these vulnerable young people can rely on a close-knit community of allies who use music as a tool for social change, self-expression, team building, and personal development. Every student enrolled in our programme is given access to a curriculum of music workshops, instrumental lessons, performance opportunities, mentorship, and group cultural outings.
It is through running this programme and regularly supporting our allies in other refugee networks around the globe that we are actively working to strengthen the connections within and appreciation of our diverse global community.
Music is an incredible tool for providing therapeutic emotional relief, for bringing communities together, for exploring creativity, and it’s a brilliant way to enroll professional musicians in paid charity work that supports their careers and is socially impactful.
Research shows that learning music improves reading skills, numeracy, abstract thinking skills, long-term and auditory memory, listening skills, and develops the part of the brain that is associated with sensory and motor function.
Beyond the scientific and therapeutic reasons, music education is beneficial in its own right: in the making of music! Music is a unique form of personal expression that exists in every culture. Music provides an outlet for creative thinking, for emotional release, as well as encouraging self-discipline, self-exploration, cultural appreciation, and good old fashioned fun.
It is also becoming increasingly clear that this swiftly globalising world of ours needs more points of connections between its diverse communities. What better way to bring people together than in collaborative celebration of this diversity!