2020 was one of the hardest years on record. Unprecedented health, economic, and educational shocks around the world caused pain, loss, and desperation on a scale never before seen in our lifetimes. It was also a year of incredible compassion and community building. Major social justice issues globally were brought to the forefront in concentrated efforts to rebalance racial, economic, and social disparities across marginalized communities. PFCF was honored to join forces with the United Nations for the ‘Peace Through Music: A Global Event for Social Justice’ to raise awareness about racial discrimination internationally.
Playing For Change Foundation looked no further than our own staff at international program locations for truly inspiring leadership. In the face of poverty, food insecurity, and health crises, program leaders and teachers continued to engage our students, youth, and broader communities, distributing urgent health supplies across eight program locations on three continents, reaching thousands of community members.
PFCF funded the distribution of needed food supplies in five countries, targeting those community members in desperate need of such relief. Thanks to contributions from our broad PFCF community, as well as donations raised through our Emergency Fund from Playing For Change and such artists like Yo-Yo Ma, we were not only able to fund these emergency supplies, but also maintain salaries of more than 120 program staff internationally, which proved to be a lifeline to their families throughout this great economic uncertainty.
PFCF also laid a strong foundation for more dynamic learning moving into 2021 and beyond. Prioritizing digital learning, consistent music education and cultural activities were carried out via WhatsApp and Facebook across five countries. Our programs were the only organizations in these communities to lead such initiatives, and these social-emotional learning activities helped our students navigate this unprecedented uncertainty and confusion. We also importantly learned first-hand the great technological disparities throughout each of our 15 programs. In looking to address these disparities, we fundraised to create a Digital Pilot Program, which has already started at our PFC Patagonia program in Argentina and received a grant from Amazon Web Services to further develop digital learning strategies throughout all programs. We’ve led sustained and targeted digital engagement among PFCF program leaders at each location, using Zoom and Skype as cross-program collaborative tools to connect the global PFCF family. Engaging our programs digitally throughout the year positioned us to effectively take on a project with Inner-City Arts in Los Angeles, designing educational and cultural exchanges facilitated digitally, which is still ongoing and currently engaging five countries.
From September and October onward, we’ve resumed in-person learning at several programs with effective safety protocols and physical distancing measures. Continued leadership and youth engagement across all programs positions us ideally to resume in-person learning at all programs moving past COVID, enhanced with new digital strategies developed throughout this COVID period. We owe a debt of gratitude not just to all of our supporters who help us to realize our vision to use music as a tool for education and social change, but also to all of our program staff and teachers at PFCF programs whose dedication to their communities and students shows the true power of what it means to Play For Change.