Grace Foundation’s dream of a Children’s Symphony of Cuenca will bring refugee and local children together but needs community support

Dec 7, 2023 | 0 comments

Venezuelan refugees in Cuenca record a song.

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.
– Plato

By Steven Chasson

A year ago Karla Sanchez, Director of the Grace Foundacion (Give Refugees a Chance) of Cuenca, started a dream to help refugee children in Cuenca. As a refugee from Venezuela herself, she experienced first-hand the trauma and ongoing stress of moving to a new country, lacking a job, a home and friends or family to support her. Refugee children experience many stressful emotions along with a lack of understanding about why they are in a strange land. Her dream to start a children’s symphony started to grow and she obtained funding for 50 children to take a week of music lessons. Since then the idea to have a symphony grown.

“The time is now to move forward” with a goal of having a core group of organizers established by the first of 2024,” Karla says. “Grace is looking for people with musical teaching experience, administration and fund-raising skills to come together to start a Children’s Symphony in Cuenca. The symphony will be composed of refugees and local Cuencano children with the expectation that when they make music together, an understanding of each other will occur which will lead to life-long friendships.”

Ali Lacero teaches Venezuelan music to refugee children.

The Cuenca Rotary club is a partner in the project and will provide practice space. La Guarida, a restaurant in Cuenca that shows current movies will be showing the movie “Maestro,” on December 26 and 27 with Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein, and will also support the symphony as a partner.

Bernstein, who provided inspiration for the project, televised 53 television shows for children to develop their interest in music in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s. All of his shows can be seen on Youtube. Bernstein said: “Children must receive music instruction as naturally as food, with as much pleasure as they derive from a ball game, and this must happen from the beginning of their lives.”

Yatson Sanchez and Mariangle Mundaray, local talented musicians have also agreed to support the project.

Karla says that starting a symphony, which plays Venezuelan music, is of great importance to the refugee community. “This will provide my kids and I with a little piece of home,” adding, “When I left Venezuela, I did not want to leave, but it was a matter of safety for my family. Cuenca is now my home, which I love, but I still need to experience the rich culture I left behind.”

Steve Chasson, President of the Grace Foundation in the U.S. has a different prospective. “One of my best memories of high school, was being involved in the play, “The Music Man,” about a small town who starts a marching band to keep their kids out of trouble. As a teenager, I was enthralled with Marion the librarian, now as a retired teacher, I can relate better to the importance of music, learning an instrument and wearing a uniform. My plan is to go back home and identify a U.S. symphony who is willing to sponsor the Cuenca children’s symphony.

The goal is to establish a committee, Friends of the Cuenca Children’s Symphony, by January of next year. The committee would establish a plan to raise funds, obtain community support for the symphony, develop guidelines for participation in the symphony, promote the symphony and work on other details.

According to Chasson, the symphony needs the support of the entire community. If you would like to serve on this committee, please send Grace an email at We also welcome questions and suggestions.

The video below, “Playful and sound holiday workshops for Wambras and Chamos”, presents the song “Leo leo lé”. It is part of the project to integrate, share and learn from the cultures and heritages of Ecuador and Venezuela, to understand that we come from the same ancient roots, and to promote the idea to live with respect and dignity.


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