This week Peace Boat US interviewed the Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of El Salvador to the UN and former Peace Boat staff member Ruben Hasbun, who is coordinating the youth music education project at the Centro Escolar Districto Italia School in El Salvador.


Peace Boat US and the Permanent Mission of El Salvador have been collaborating to gather wind, string and percussion instruments and accessories to donate to the school by July 31.  A group of volunteers and high school students from Brooklyn will bring them to El Salvador as part of a week-long voyage with the Music & Art Peace Academy program on the Peace Boat. Here, Mr. Hasbun tells us a little more about the program, what is in store for the future and why it is so important.

Q. What inspired the Centro Escolar Districto Italia School in El Salvador to start a music program and what kind of positive effects do you think they will have on the community?

A. The school is 80 km away from the capital of El Salvador and it is located in an area where two gangs are fighting against one another. The school is particularly vulnerable because both gangs are trying to recruit kids. The first Ambassador of the Permanent Mission to the UN started working with non-governmental organizations here, as well as the International Brain Education Association, which deals with anger management. This worked really well, so we started connecting with other NGOs to support the initiative. The program is meant to keep kids off the street. We don’t have the resources to have a full band but with some donations we are able to put together an orchestra and they are really good. This collection of instruments will be helping that particular program.

Q. What do you think the program needs most right now?

A. One thing we could benefit from would be spreading the word about our organization because it is not very well known yet. Inside the country people speak about it, but it is not really that visible worldwide. We also need to make sure the schools develop a self sustainable  program so that when the NGOs leave they can still continue to function. Peace Boat can be useful by bringing not only instruments but also attention to the program.

Q. What do you hope participants will be able to get out of the program?

A. Most importantly we want to make sure that they stay in school and out of a gang and do not get involved with issues such as drug smuggling or organ trading. We also hope that this program will give them the resources to reach their full potential to become whatever they want to be as an adult.

Q. What would you like to see happen for the future of this program? Are there any plans for expansion to other schools and communities?

A. It is growing little by little. The program that they started in one school is going into maybe 100 other schools now. We would like to make that link so that the government can see the results of the program in one school and make it a part of the national budget for education.

Q. In your opinion, why is music so important in bringing communities together?

A. Music gives students a sense of building things together, performing together and being part of something. If you come from a broken home, as many of them do, school becomes the only place that you can feel like you are a part of something. I remember in high school when I was part of a band, it felt like a sense of belonging. A lot of homes are broken because of divorce or parents who have emigrated so this allows schools to be a safe haven for kids that will give them skills to succeed in the future.