Dream Orchestra Young Leaders Program was selected, out of 146 projects from 43 countries, as one of the four winners of the 2021 Ockenden International Prizes for being, according to the jury, “a unique leadership project (...) that empowers young refugees by learning a musical instrument” within orchestral education.
The judges, of the ninth edition of the 2021 Ockenden International Prize, also said that "the orchestra’s beautiful music underscores the project’s importance in elevating confidence and self-esteem – individually and collectively."
Founded in 2016 by Ron Davis Alvarez, recognized by the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 2020 with the Göran Lagervall Pedagogy Prize, Dream Orchestra was born as a safe place to integrate using music as a tool, unaccompanied minor refugees, who arrived in Sweden fleeing from violence and war in Afghanistan, Syria and Iran. It started with 13 students, and today 302 children and youth with refugee, migrant and other background from Albania, Angola, Bosnia, Colombia, Chile, France, India, Iraq, Japan, China, “Kurdistan”, “Palestine”, Paraguay, Spain, Turkey, United States, Sweden and Venezuela have participated.
“I am very proud of all the hard work we have done since the orchestra started. Now we see how these young refugees have become young leaders: they have been able to finish their studies in Sweden, they have found work, they have a safe place to live. This fills me with great strength to continue working and motivating programs all over the world. This award is also for those students who were deported, because in Dream Orchestra, we have given them musical and life tools that no one can ever take away from them, no matter where they are”, says Alvarez, one of the 50 finalists of the Global Teacher Prize 2017 by the Varkey Foundation.
In 2017, the Young Leaders Program began with the aim of turning its members, who have managed to cope with traumatic situations, into young leaders, granting them small responsibilities in educational tasks and building discipline through social activities to integrate them into their new communities.
For Franka Verhagen, Dream Orchestra’s CEO and who leads the Teaching Training Program and the Young Leaders Program since 2019, this is “a recognition for our effort to empower young refugees by learning a musical instrument in the orchestra. When playing music together, an ideal environment arises where these youngsters, apart from developing their musicality, can develop their creativity, their communication skills, learn about themselves and to work as a team. They will have the opportunity to develop as leaders and receive from the group dynamics, support and motivation to prepare for the future and become self-reliant and independent citizens.”, assures Franka with 33 years of educational work within El Sistema Venezuela, and who led, for nine years, the Academic Training Program for Young Teachers and Directors of El Sistema.
Since 2013, Ockenden International has selected every year four organizations that work for the self-reliance and independence of refugees. The four award-winning organizations of this year 2021 are: Israel’s ARTEAM, Velos Youth, Greece and The Ara Trust, India
Ockenden International started out as Ockenden Venture, one of the first refugee charities to be established after World War II. Founded in 1951 by three school teachers, its name derives from founder Joyce Pearce's family home, "Ockenden" in White Rose Lane, Woking, Surrey, England.