What it is like growing up in Lavender Hill

It’s not easy growing up in Lavender Hill. Young people in this community are exposed to violence and crime on a daily basis and often don’t have positive role models or a healthy way to express their feelings. Our Music for Life team has been offering marimba and gumboots dance sessions in Lavender Hill for the last three and a half years to help these young people cope with their difficult circumstances. We spoke to some of the teachers, parents, community members and Music for Life participants to find out how the programme is helping the youth in Lavender Hill.

A headmaster at a local school told us that the youth of Lavender Hill have “abnormal childhoods” and are “prisoners in their own homes”. They can’t play outside because of the danger of gang violence. They feel frustrated and angry, but don’t have a healthy way of expressing this, so they end up ‘acting out’ at school through bullying and distracting or withdrawn behaviour in class. They see school as a place to play and be children, and the teachers struggle to keep them focused and work.

The Music for Life team helps the young people grow in positive ways, by giving them a space where they can express themselves, play and act like children. Every child is treated with respect and even the quietest child can find their voice and become a leader. There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’; everyone can understand music, participate and have fun! 

The teachers say that after gumboot dance sessions, the mood in the classroom becomes more positive and the children become quieter and more focused. The young people say they enjoy playing together and making friends in marimba sessions. It keeps them off the street and out of danger and gives them a way to express their feelings. It lets them feel that they belong somewhere and can just be children. They never want to miss out on sessions, so it keeps them from missing or dropping out of school. The teachers say that to the young people, Mark, the facilitator “is the centre of the universe”. He is firm, encouraging, reliable and caring and he is a role model. He teaches them skills that they can share with their communities, so that they too can become role models. 

Music for Life makes young people feel valued which gives them confidence. This makes them more resilient and they have hope for the future to grow up and live positive lives.