For hundreds of years, music has been used as a pleasurable hobby, a peaceful way to relax and an escape from everyday life. It is also widely used as a therapy tool for children and adults all over the world. When Patrick Kennedy, 24, and Connor Patterson, 24, realized that they could merge their two passions—music for Kennedy and conflict studies for Patterson—for the greater good to help others, they did just that with Chords of Peace.
The nonprofit organization, which is sponsored by Fractured Atlas, another nonprofit arts organization, was founded by Kennedy, a Levittown resident and Patterson of Farmingdale, with the goal to teach music to children in conflict areas all over the world by using it as a means of therapy and distraction.
“Connor came over to my house in October of 2015 after just returning from school in London and was trying to find a job,” said Kennedy of his friend and Chords co-founder. “Over the course of about six months, we refined the idea to helping children regain a sense of their childhood. There are so many victims of war, sexual violence and other types of conflict and often their voices aren’t heard.”
Kennedy and Patterson wanted to create a program that allows kids to not only escape the horror they see everyday, but to give them a place to speak about the things they’ve seen.
“It’s like a therapy environment through the use of music,” said Patterson, who met Kennedy during freshman year at Queens College. “Pat was the only person I felt comfortable bringing the idea up with as it hasn’t really been done before.”
The mission of Chords of Peace is to send music-minded volunteers and professionals to countries afflicted by conflict. Once there, volunteers will help rebuild communities through music camps, offering lessons, enjoyment and improvement to children’s mental health and well-being, which will provide an outlet for self-expression that children in these areas do not receive.
Currently the project manager at a women’s nonprofit, Patterson received his master’s degree in conflict studies, so he was already well-versed on the type of issues he would come in contact with. Building a network of cross disciplines along with a friend who handled communications and the fact that Kennedy is a music teacher, Chords of Peace was on its way.
“Pat and I created the website ourselves and we officially launched on May 9. We have 22 donors so far who donated anywhere from $10 to $100,” said Patterson. “We hit $1,200 and are launching a crowdfunding campaign this week.”
Proceeds raised from the event will fund Chords of Peace’s first trip to Goma, a city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo near Rwanda. Kennedy and Patterson have established a partnership with a school already functioning on the ground, who is willing to take them on, allow them to use their facilities and pilot the program.
“We go for two weeks to meet our connections, observe the day-to-day operations of the school, see how we can incorporate our program into theirs and make it as successful as possible,” said Kennedy. “We are excited to learn the culture and see how the kids operate.”
For their initial location, Kennedy and Patterson were hoping to visit Sudan or south Sudan, however, the country’s government is not too keen on outside visitation. They are also looking into Israel, Palestine and Colombia, and are not limiting themselves to any one region.
“It’s easier to partner up with an educational facility because we want the program to be all encompassing, where kids who haven’t played before can start at beginner, intermediate and expert level instruction on how to play music,” said Patterson. “We’re not a cookie cutter organization and want to cater to the cultural and musical aspects of their respected country to teach them lessons about their music with a performance recital at the end of the program.”
Both Kennedy and Patterson plan to keep diaries of their travels for the pilot trip, with the goal of having a full-fledged camp in the near future. The two have outsourced their friend Michelle, who came up with the name Chords of Peace, to help as well.
“Anywhere there is conflict that involves children, we want to bring our mission to those kids,” said Kennedy.
Chords of Peace is extremely active on social media. For more information on Chords of Peace or to make a donation, visit www.chordsofpeace.org.