This article appears in the Summer 2015 issue of Dispatches, the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Canada magazine.
By Tiffany Chiang
Last spring, a collection of young performers gathered in Toronto to celebrate the power of music. The group, which included award-winning violinist Emma Meinrenken (winner of the Junior Division of the 2013 Stradivarius International Violin Competition) and drumming group Bakudan Taiko, performed as part of a campaign to support the work of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and its response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
Aptly named Music Without Borders, the campaign was designed by a group of high school students — including artists, designers, musicians, programmers, writers and friends — from Bayview Glen School and the University of Toronto Schools. Conceived as a collective project drawing upon young people’s talents in order to better engage with global issues, Music Without Borders developed its name and theme based not only on the work MSF, but on the notion that music has the ability to draw people together.
'We chose to donate to MSF because of their impressive and rapid response'
With that in mind, the young organizers developed their idea for a fundraising concert, along with a Music Without Borders creative blog with videos, poems, writing and music posted by the students, and a social media campaign on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
“My piano teacher suggested that my brother and I give a recital,” recalls Benn, one of the student organizers. “ However, since the Ebola crisis was raging on at the time, we decided to turn it into a concert in support of this cause. We chose to donate to MSF because of their impressive and rapid response to the crisis in Africa and figured the money we raised would go to very good use.”
Organizers and their parents dropped by MSF Canada’s Toronto offices not long after the event to present a cheque for over $13,000, all raised by the students’ efforts and all going to support MSF’s lifesaving medical work.
In addition to Meinrenken and Bakudan Taiko, the concert also featured a keynote address by MSF Association member Emily Scott and a traditional chant provided by Carnatic musician Adithya Chakravarthy.
The concert was a success, as both a showcase for young musical talent and as a fundraising initiative. Music Without Borders student organizers and their parents dropped by MSF Canada’s Toronto offices not long after the event to present a cheque for over $13,000, all raised by the students’ efforts and all going to support MSF’s lifesaving medical work.
On the night of the concert, Carnatic musician Chakravarthy eloquently summed up the Music Without Borders mission, explaining how he hoped his music might help make a difference in the lives of MSF patients in West Africa and elsewhere. “The Ebola crisis has claimed thousands of African lives,” he said. “I have always believed that when people are suffering, we should do all that we can to alleviate their suffering.”
“The great Carnatic composers used music as a vehicle to express their thoughts,” he continued, “and as a result, many of these songs can contain some very profound messages. … By being a part of Music Without Borders’ concert, I hope to contribute by raising awareness and funds to help fight for this noble cause."
Thank you to the many individuals and groups who use their talents to raise money for MSF’s lifesaving work. If you would like to organize a fundraiser of your own, please visit msf.ca/fundraise, where you will find a wealth of resources to help you in your efforts. For more information, or if you would like to discuss your fundraising idea with us, contact our Donor Relations team at 1-800-982-7903 or email us at email@example.com.