Education  India Project #19185

Songs of Peace from Orphans of Conflict in Manipur

by Foundation for Social Transformation - enabling north east india
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Songs of Peace from Orphans of Conflict in Manipur
Songs of Peace from Orphans of Conflict in Manipur
Songs of Peace from Orphans of Conflict in Manipur
Songs of Peace from Orphans of Conflict in Manipur
Songs of Peace from Orphans of Conflict in Manipur

In 2010, there was a blockade called by Naga organisations in both the highways (National Highways 37 and 39) leading to Manipur against the State government’s decision to bar the entry of NSCN (IM) leader Th. Muivah into his home district Ukhrul, Manipur. In one of the rallies supporting Muivah’s entry into Manipur held at Mao gate, two Naga boys were shot dead by State police forces. And the highway blockade continued for three months. The blockade led to shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies in the State. This condition also fuelled communal tension between the Nagas and Meiteis of Manipur.

 During the three months, Burning Voices, a Delhi based organisation of poets and musicians which Akhu was also part of, raised funds from people all around the world and bought medicines for common ailments for the people of Manipur. He came down to Imphal and become part of medicine distribution team. On one occasion, they distributed the medicines at a children home in Kanglatombi, Senapati District. There at the children home, they found out that the children are from various ethnic backgrounds and tribes and these children hardly bothered about their own ethnicity or social status. They were simply happy living under one roof and sharing what they had at the home. This was one moment that made me realised that if we recreate such innocence, the people of Manipur can coexist respecting each other. Since then, he had thought of launching a music project with children to promote peace and harmony between the ethnic tribes/communities of Manipur. So he started an initiative called “A Native Tongue Called Peace.”

It  started from May 2015 with the children of Carmel Jyoti Children Home. He introduced various ethnic music instruments and folk songs with help from Chaoba Thiyam, a Pena player and Guru Rewben Mashangva, a Naga folk singer.. At the same time,  origami classes were organsied which the children thoroughly enjoyed were . As the project went on, he found out that  many of these children are also living with HIV. Moreover, they also have lost their parents due to familial and other crisis in Manipur. Many of them are on ART medication which impacts on their moods often. Sometimes they were cranky and grumpy; sometimes they don’t want to play the guitar. Akhu and his teams had to encourage them with stories of musicians and artists, how music have healed and played important role in a society like ours.

They started using music as a therapy to heal the children emotionally and expose them to a different world of joy which they have not found in their daily activities. In one such therapeutic session, they played a song by Nepali instrumental folk band Kutumba.

 In the month of July, they finished the first song called “All We Need Is Love”. The song also featured legendary Indian guitarist Rudy Wallang on bass and Keith Wallang on percussions. The children sang the chorus part and recorded inside the compound of the children home. Later in early August, Churachandpur was in turmoil protesting against ILP Bills passed by the State Assembly which consequently led to the killing of nine persons by security forces. And there was some sort of communal tensions brewing between Kukis and Meiteis. In such moments of ethnic differences, music is of immense importance.  With children  he and the children penned  sone called  “About these dolls”. 

“Hey little shinning doll,
you look so bold,
don’t know where you belong,
but I will give you a home”

 By this time, some of the children had already learnt how to play guitars from my band mate and classical guitar player Karnajit Laishram. Karnajit is an excellent guitar teacher with a three years’ experience of guitar teaching in Bangalore School of Music. He also has a diploma degree in classical guitar from ABRSM. 

Soon after he released the song “Little Shining Doll” and a preview organised for Child Welfare Committee, Imphal East, the children performed the song at Royal Academy, Imphal on teachers' day celebration. Few days after, the song was released on YouTube and YouTube India shared my band Imphal Talkies' YouTube Channel as channel of the day with a screenshot of the children performing the song 'Little Shining Doll' from the YouTube video we released.

 Akhu has done good work with the children. He implemented the project in state which is plagued by ethic conflicts and insurgency.

FST is discontinuing this project. The project is no longer running on GlobalGiving.

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Recording of song with children
Recording of song with children

In 2010, there was a blockade called by Naga organisations in both the highways (National Highways 37 and 39) leading to Manipur against the State government’s decision to bar the entry of NSCN (IM) leader Th. Muivah into his home district Ukhrul, Manipur. In one of the rallies supporting Muivah’s entry into Manipur held at Mao gate, two Naga boys were shot dead by State police forces. And the highway blockade continued for three months. The blockade led to shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies in the State. This condition also fuelled communal tension between the Nagas and Meiteis of Manipur.

 During the three months, Burning Voices, a Delhi based organisation of poets and musicians which Akhu was also part of, raised funds from people all around the world and bought medicines for common ailments for the people of Manipur. He came down to Imphal and become part of medicine distribution team. On one occasion, they distributed the medicines at a children home in Kanglatombi, Senapati District. There at the children home, they found out that the children are from various ethnic backgrounds and tribes and these children hardly bothered about their own ethnicity or social status. They were simply happy living under one roof and sharing what they had at the home. This was one moment that made me realised that if we recreate such innocence, the people of Manipur can coexist respecting each other. Since then, he had thought of launching a music project with children to promote peace and harmony between the ethnic tribes/communities of Manipur. So he started an initiative called “A Native Tongue Called Peace.”

It  started from May 2015 with the children of Carmel Jyoti Children Home. He introduced various ethnic music instruments and folk songs with help from Chaoba Thiyam, a Pena player and Guru Rewben Mashangva, a Naga folk singer.. At the same time,  origami classes were organsied which the children thoroughly enjoyed were . As the project went on, he found out that  many of these children are also living with HIV. Moreover, they also have lost their parents due to familial and other crisis in Manipur. Many of them are on ART medication which impacts on their moods often. Sometimes they were cranky and grumpy; sometimes they don’t want to play the guitar. Akhu and his teams had to encourage them with stories of musicians and artists, how music have healed and played important role in a society like ours.

They started using music as a therapy to heal the children emotionally and expose them to a different world of joy which they have not found in their daily activities. In one such therapeutic session, they played a song by Nepali instrumental folk band Kutumba.

 In the month of July, they finished the first song called “All We Need Is Love”. The song also featured legendary Indian guitarist Rudy Wallang on bass and Keith Wallang on percussions. The children sang the chorus part and recorded inside the compound of the children home. Later in early August, Churachandpur was in turmoil protesting against ILP Bills passed by the State Assembly which consequently led to the killing of nine persons by security forces. And there was some sort of communal tensions brewing between Kukis and Meiteis. In such moments of ethnic differences, music is of immense importance.  With children  he and the children penned  sone called  “About these dolls”. 

“Hey little shinning doll,
you look so bold,
don’t know where you belong,
but I will give you a home”

 By this time, some of the children had already learnt how to play guitars from my band mate and classical guitar player Karnajit Laishram. Karnajit is an excellent guitar teacher with a three years’ experience of guitar teaching in Bangalore School of Music. He also has a diploma degree in classical guitar from ABRSM. 

Soon after he released the song “Little Shining Doll” and a preview organised for Child Welfare Committee, Imphal East, the children performed the song at Royal Academy, Imphal on teachers' day celebration. Few days after, the song was released on YouTube and YouTube India shared my band Imphal Talkies' YouTube Channel as channel of the day with a screenshot of the children performing the song 'Little Shining Doll' from the YouTube video we released.

 Akhu has done good work with the children. He implemented the project in state which is plagued by ethic conflicts and insurgency. FST will continue to support him in future through other means. 

Rehearsing with children
Rehearsing with children
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Akhu teaching music to the children
Akhu teaching music to the children

The Foundation for Social Transformation (FST) in keeping with its mission of ‘enabling north east India’ had raised resources to award a Fellowship in May 2015 to Akhu, a grassroots musician, hailing from the state of Manipur. We enabled Akhu to use the power of Music - recognised universally as the language of love -  to transform the quality of life of marginalised children and promote peace and harmony among the ethnic tribes and communities in strife torn Manipur. Akhu chose to call this project “A native Tongue called Peace" and initiated it with over 60 children living at the Carmel Jyoti Children Home, Imphal, some of whom were affected with HIV/AIDS while others were orphaned during the frequent episodes of conflict and violence in the state.

Using music as a therapeutic tool, this project aimed to help in emotional healing for the children who had undergone a lot of violence and trauma. Akhu along with his team provided music lessons to the children to help channelise their inner feelings, provide a creative outlet to release their trauma through the medium of music and bring them together on a common platform. Along with enhancing their creativity, this project was to provide a way for the children to deal with their loss and also promote unity and communal harmony. They came from different castes, tribes and religion, but were bound by a common thread of having lost everything to conflict. At the end of a year long journey Akhu would record and release four songs written, composed and performed by the children. Sharing the songs that they composed and sang across different forum would take their message of unity to the larger community.

Three songs have been recorded and released while the recording of a fourth one is in process. These heartwarming and deeply moving songs All we need is Love, Little Shining Doll and Miles to Go Before I Sleep have been performed at various forum locally and were very well received by the community. This entire exercise that also involved various art and craft activities had a remarkably transformational effect on the children by stimulating and building their self confidence as well as their mental and physical development. All We need is Love was featured in a regional online magazine called The Northeast Today too. Another happy outcome of this music based project, has been the interest shown by other orphanages and institutions, that were initially sceptical, and requests to Akhu to initiate similar programs with their children. Friends, wellwishers and community members are now coming forward eagerly in support of the project and the children in whatever way possible.  

Funding for this project was raised through various sources which include donations and sponsorship of events including fundraising concerts in Delhi and Guwahati by Akhu himself under the aegis of FST. These came from United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues (TARSHI),  National Foundation for India (NFI), GlobalGiving, LetzChange, LetzDream Foundation, as well as individual donations in cash and kind. Although the project is now coming to a close, Akhu along with his team members and friends plan to continue this project, reaching out to more children as they go along.

Having established Akhu with this project on a sound footing, FST now proposes to move on and promote visionary creative ventures in other parts of the strife torn region of North East India.  FST gratefully acknowledges the goodwill and sponsorship support extended by donors and is hopeful of continued support in future programs as well, so that we in turn can support such efforts to bring rays of hope to children and youth in the region.



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Kids playing with one of the team members
Kids playing with one of the team members

With the Donations gathered so far, Akhu Chingangbam could successfully conduct a range of workshops and lessons for the 62 children of his orphanage in the month of May. These include Ice Breaking Sessions with the children and the Staff; Introductory classes on Meitei Folk music taken by ChaobaThiyam, Tangkhul Folk music taught by the Legendary Naga Folk singer Guru Rewben Mashangva; Western Classical Guitar by Karnajit Laishram; and Basic Origami classes by Anku Heirangkhongjam. Regular music classes are being organized for the children and one song has also been written, composed and recorded! The children have also been able to hone their crafts making skills and other kinds of artwork.

The children have responded remarkably with the already visible enthusiasm, picked up the skills swiftly and according to Akhu’s report, have even demonstrated percussive skills. However, the recent activities were not devoid of challenges and they certainly wouldn’t be. Some of the problems pertained to the HIV positive children who are under ART medication that to a certain degree deters concentration. The children are usually very tired and weak. But the short attention span doesn’t necessarily hamper potential. For instance, an HIV positive child in the orphanage who also happens to have certain cancerous cells was one of the fastest amongst the children to have honed her guitar skills. The teachers and sisters in the orphanage noted that the children are so enthusiastic that they practice their lessons any free time they get, and they are very happy when they are practicing! 

One thing the children enjoy the most is Akhu and his team playing for them. There have been moments when children just sit quietly listening to them play, sometimes they holding each other's hands and sometimes tears flowing their eyes. Such moments have been very touching for Akhu and his team as well. There also have been moments when the kids smile and laugh as they sing along clapping all the while. Akhu says that all such moments are testimonies of music working as a therapy for the little children in pain of loss.

The project has also attended to other needs of the children by mobilizing donations in Imphal and collecting huge numbers of items like clothes, toys, books, etc. Also, the children require substantial amounts of nutritional elements, especially vitamins. In the course of several activities, these children have grown attached to the members and vice versa. Many of them have opened up on a more personal level and become more outspoken. In fact, the teachers have been more inspired since. In the following month, the lessons would extend to dance therapy led by contemporary dancer Surjit Nongmeikapam along with visual screenings and excursion trips to various indigenous museums. Not to forget the recording of four songs with the children, and the music and guitar lessons shall continue.

Children practicing guitar lessons
Children practicing guitar lessons
Origami lessons going on
Origami lessons going on
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FST, Foundation for Social Transformation, started to raise funds for the project “Songs of peace from orphans of conflict in Manipur” in February 2015. We need 5000 USD to be able to start the project. However, so far we have been able to raise only 326 USD. We are unable to start the project without the basic funds needed.

While we continue our efforts to raise funds for the project, Akhu has already started the ground work needed to start the project. After discussions with a local orphanage that shelters children of conflict, he has been able to get their permission to allow Akhu to work with the children living there.  As orphanages are monitored by Child Welfare Committee (CWC)* to ensure the safety and well being of the children, a formal permission has to be taken from the CWC before the project begins. Akhu has been able to get this permission from CWC under the condition that any visual material, whether photographs or videos, that showcase the children of the orphanage will have to be approved by the CWC before release. This is a huge step forward as Akhu can now start the project as soon as we have the funds.

Since online fund raising is going slow, and both Akhu and the children anxiously waiting to start the project, FST has decided to organise a fund raising event on 29thof March to raise the funds required. Hopefully the event will be successful and the project can be started from April 2015.

Akhu and the children of Manipur still need your support to bring out their messages of peace. Please consider donating once again for this project. Spread the word about the project within your friends and family and encourage them to donate as well. We need your support NOW! 

* In India, as per the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 (amended in 2006) State governments are required to establish a CWC or two in ever district. Each CWC should consist of a chairperson and four members. The chairperson should be a person well versed in child welfare issues and at least one member of the board should be a woman. The CWC has the same powers as a metropolitan magistrate or a judicial magistrate of the first class.

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Organization Information

Foundation for Social Transformation - enabling north east india

Location: Guwahati, Assam - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @FSTnortheast
Project Leader:
FST Northeast
GUWAHATI, Assam India

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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