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Syrian Refugee Makes Music to Provide Schools in Kenya's U.N. Refugee Camps

This Benefit Concert is designed to draw attention to the plight of the millions of children who are trapped in refugee camps all around the world.
Refugee Children

[dc]“M[/dc]usic can empower people and give them a sense of hope,” says Nanor Seraydarian, serious words for a 17-year-old but then this is a teenager who narrowly escaped being trapped in a war zone. Born in Aleppo into a musical family of five, Nanor enjoyed a happy everyday existence with her two younger siblings, until the war in Syria abruptly invaded their lives in January 2012. Conditions grew increasingly unsafe in the city and by June, the family flew to Los Angeles to stay with Nanor’s aunt. The trip was originally intended as a temporary hiatus, a month-long vacation, but as Syrian airports closed and the violence intensified, Nanor realized that they could not return home. She felt lucky, she says, not only to have escaped to a safe place but that amongst her few belongings, she had packed her precious violin. The instrument, which had been given to her as a gift on her fourth birthday, was to become an invaluable source of solace for Nanor and a way to distract her out of her stressful memories.

At first, Nanor was consumed with the daily survival techniques of an immigrant. She had to learn English and a new alphabet in order to augment her existing Armenian and Arabic vocabulary, and she worked to get her study skills proficient enough to succeed in a foreign school system. Within a few months, she was enrolled in elementary school and had resumed her study of the violin. “Music became my happy activity. It helped me forget what was going on back home and to take my mind off worrying about grandpa and other family members still stuck in Aleppo.”

Within 18 months, Nanor had auditioned for and won the prestigious Zipper Scholarship at the Colburn School of Performing Arts in Los Angeles. The award covers the cost of her private lessons with Professor Henry Gronnier, until she graduates in two years’ time. Nanor loves working with Gronnier who in addition to helping her become a better violinist has also fuelled her love of music, “Professor Gronnier has shown me how to cope with my sadness and how to realize joy in my music.” Because of her own harrowing war experiences coupled with her good fortune to escape such circumstances, Nanor has become actively involved in promoting UNA-Pasadena’s Adopt-A-Future Benefit Concert, on Friday, June 22 at 7 p.m. at Westridge School’s Performing Arts Center in Pasadena. Nanor will also perform in the concert.

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This Benefit Concert is designed to draw attention to the plight of the millions of children who are trapped in refugee camps all around the world.

According to Marta Stern, the concert’s chairman, “This event is designed to draw attention to the plight of the millions of children who are trapped in refugee camps all around the world. There is limited access to education in the camps, and the average stay is 17 years. One of the chief goals of the U.N.'s Sustainable Development initiative is to provide quality education for all as a human right. The UN’s Adopt-A-Future Campaign is designed to fulfill on that goal by teaching refugee children to read, write, and to provide the skills needed to flourish as well as survive. 18 million out of the 65 million refugees worldwide are under the direct care of the U.N. The Adopt-A-Future Campaign is currently focusing on two refugee camp complexes in Kenya, which are the largest, poorest, and most overcrowded of such establishments on earth. Much has been accomplished, but there is only 1 desk for 7 children; only 1 book for 7 pupils; only 1 classroom for 160 students (meant for 40 children). UNA-Pasadena hopes to raise $30,000 in matching funds to build a classroom. Providing refugee children with a hopeful future through education is an achievable goal. The alternative represents a formidable challenge: millions of illiterate adults, emerging from refugee camps over the next 20 years without much hope, and without home or country to receive them.”

Nanor echoes Stern’s sentiments, “Education is one of the most important things in a child’s life. Education brings freedom and with it, choices. Even if it is telling people why they should not drink bad water. Knowledge helps them and then they can help their communities so I want to use my music to draw people’s attention to the importance of this education. One day, if I realize my dream of studying music and medicine, I hope to go back to Syria to help my neighbors rebuild their lives and their communities.” But for right now, both individuals’ sights are set upon the common goal of filling the 500-seat auditorium at Westridge School so that Stern can meet her target and Nanor can play her favorite Brahms’s Sonata to a packed house.

To purchase online tickets, go here.