If you follow Dignitas on social media, you may have seen us sharing the ‘Music Beats COVID’ campaign.  This fantastic campaign was designed and executed by two of our youngest supporters, Rhea and Neha, along with their friend Reeyan.  Their generosity and compassion have simply blown us away.  We wanted you to hear their story in their own words so we asked them to respond to a few interview questions.  Read on to learn more!

Why Music Beats COVID? 

The coronavirus pandemic has forced schools to close nationwide. For those in marginalized communities in Nairobi, schools not only provide education, but also necessities such as nutrition and protection. Whilst we were experiencing the novelty of online learning, we inquired how children in informal settlements were coping with the abrupt closure of schools. We heard about rising unemployment and increased hunger and felt the compelling need to help in some way. 

My sister and I have been involved with music for our whole life and have grown to develop a passion for playing instruments and singing. Music is a universal language that everyone relates to. We decided to combine our love for music and our urge to help others, and hence the brainchild of ‘Music Beats COVID’ social media challenge was born. As we couldn’t meet physically, we formed a team that included Reeyan Shah who was also passionate about doing something for marginalized children during this crisis.

What steps did you take to make it happen, and what did you achieve?

Between the three of us, we went through extensive planning to work out the format of the challenge on the social media platforms (Instagram and Facebook). We designed awareness posters, created logos, set up the social media pages and started alerting all our friends. Our parents helped us to set up a crowdfunding platform which would allow global donations and local donations via Mpesa. We kept in touch with our chosen charities whilst planning the initiative to keep them informed.

Why Dignitas Project and Jamii Bora Trust?

We have been personally involved with these charities and trust and admire the work that both charities do. Due to the restrictions in movement due to COVID-19, we felt it best to support people who know the marginalized communities well and can help them in a sustainable and efficient way. 

We first came across the Dignitas Project through Dr Sheth (Dignitas’ Chair) when we performed and donated art for their 10 year anniversary in 2018. We have subsequently had the privilege of meeting school leaders that they had trained and we were so impressed by how passionate they were about teaching. As school children, we have learnt to appreciate the value of engaging education. We are also firm believers that every child has a right to quality education. Dignitas Project are continuing to provide employment and empowerment to the Leaders of Learning whilst helping them deliver learning in innovative ways during this pandemic. 

Reeyan introduced us to Jamii Bora Trust which is overseen by Ingrid Munro who has been involved in the Mathare community for over 30 years. This Trust aims to provide money to local traders who can stock up local kiosks with food as well as send money to the most vulnerable families to help them buy food. The money that we donate circulates within the community which allows for economic sustainability within Mathare. Children need food as a basic necessity if they are to stay safe and learning. We admire the work that Jamii Bora Trust is doing and are happy to be supporting them.

What are you most proud of now?

We reached our initial target within the first 3 days of the challenge. Within 4 weeks, over 150 musicians have participated! There have been musical contributions and donations from people of all age, backgrounds and across 6 countries so far, including our own music teachers who have also shared their music. It is so humbling that we have been able to spread positivity through music and encourage others to share their talent. We feel elated that our initiative has improved the lives of others, and kept children learning in a safe environment. 

What next?

We are working to continue raising funds and hope to continue our support for these charities. We plan to keep spreading positivity through music and aim to get more Kenyan and international musicians involved. 

What would you tell other young people who want to do something positive in their communities?

Don’t refrain from helping others. Use your strengths to create a powerful call to action. Don’t underestimate the importance of teamwork. Children are the future and any positive action can greatly impact others.

We would like to thank everyone who has taken part in the challenge so far! If you play music and want to get involved, please get in touch with us though our Instagram or Facebook pages: @musicbeatscovid. or donate here. 

Written by Rhea and Neha Shah.