In August, Mick Quinn and Debora Prieto interviewed me about my transformational work in music for their tele-series, "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Actions." In the process, I learned about their "extraordinary actions" - to better the lives of impoverished children in Guatemala.
And I also learned these astounding facts: 43% of children in Guatemala under the age of 5 are chronically malnourished. This is one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. More than half of the population is below the national poverty line and 15% live in extreme poverty. Poverty among indigenous groups, which make up 38% of the population, averages 76% and extreme poverty rises to 28%.
In one of our conversations, Debora and Mick told me of a 13 year-old girl named Katy. When I first heard Katy's name and the tragic circumstances she has endured, I sensed a connection with her. In retrospect, as I reflect on my thirty years of teaching, I realize that I've experienced that special rapport a number of times. It has most often been with a woman or girl who has faced particularly challenging circumstances.
I was compelled to write Katy a piano composition. Last Saturday, thousands of miles from the slums of Guatemala, I turned on the mp3 recorder and began. What came to me was a sense of innocence and of joy. Katy was being robbed of these precious attributes--the birthright of childhood. I created a piece inspired by what I knew was in her, despite her tragic life. I called it, "Katy, Ray of Hope."
Click here to listen
A few days later, I emailed the piano piece to Debora. She set up her computer so that I could meet Katy via SKYPE and speak with her as she listened to the composition. Katy is a student at The Scheel Center, an extraordinary place where Debora spends two days per week teaching children whom, as she describes, share one quality, "abject poverty."
There were many kids in the room finishing lunch, talking boisterously. But that didn't seem to matter. As Katy listened to the music she became completely absorbed. I watched her face on my computer screen here in the United States. Time was suspended. The piece seemed to go on forever. Finally, towards the end, Katy broke down in tears and threw her arms around Debora. Debora was my surrogate. I couldn't touch Katy or hug her. But we were connected. "No one has ever created something beautiful for me," Katy said. "This is so beautiful." I responded by telling her, it's the first piece I've composed especially for someone.
Katy has touched my heart. I have decided to sponsor her through Mick and Debora's program. It allows her to have books, shoes, a bed--it will fulfill her basic needs and the needs of her family. My hope--and this is the goal of their program--is for Katy to become educated, to rise out of poverty, to begin to make real her hopes and dreams.
There are many other children in Mick and Debora's program who need sponsorship. For $25/month your sponsorship will be their Ray of Hope. Please see this website to learn more about these children and how you, too, can sponsor a child in Guatemala.
This new video is a wonderful introduction to their program.