For the past three years, Kurdish musician Gani Mirzo has dedicated his life to one mission: helping children in his native Syria overcome the effects of war.
Syria’s devastating civil war that has raged since 2011 has taken its toll on civilians, particularly children.
According U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF), an estimated 2.6 million children remain displaced inside Syria, while about 2.5 million children are living as refugees in neighboring countries.
More than 5.5 million children in Syria still require some form of humanitarian assistance, U.N. officials say.
?Syria never forgotten
Mirzo, 50, has been living in Spain for 26 years, where he has gained recognition for his unique fusion of flamenco and traditional Kurdish music. But his personal achievements in Spain didn’t make him forget people in his home country.
“I visited a Syrian refugee camp in Iraq in 2013 and witnessed the dire conditions in which refugees and especially children lived,” Mirzo told VOA.
“From that moment, I wanted to do something to help children there and in Syria as well. After I returned to Barcelona, I began working on an album dedicated to the children at that refugee camp,” he said.
Mirzo said his album, Domiz Camp, was inspired by the name of the refugee camp in Iraq. The revenue from the album went to Syrian children and refugee families.
That, however, was not enough for Mirzo. He wanted to do something more sustainable to help Syrian children. In 2016, he traveled to Syria to assess the situation for himself.
“By going there, I learned new things beyond what I was hearing in the news,” he said. “This war has far more devastating effects on people than what you could possibly know by watching from abroad.”
WATCH: Musician Brings Donated Instruments to Syrian Kids
He then returned to Spain with the desire to do something for the Syrian children.
“I wanted to send music instruments to kids in Syria, because when I was there I saw how children in Syria had nothing to develop their skills and talents,” Mirzo said.
Musicians Without Borders
One of the groups that stepped in to help Mirzo was Musicians Without Borders, an international organization that promotes peace through music in conflict zones.
“When I contacted them and told them about my plans, there were like ‘people are sending bombs and weapons to Syria, but you have decided to send music instruments.’ And so they happily agreed to donate instruments. I’m so grateful to them,” he said.
Mirzo hopes his efforts give back some sense of normalcy to children affected by Syria’s conflict.
“Syrian children should be distracted from the horrors of this war. Playing music is a great way for that purpose,” he said.
The Syrian musician has so far been able to deliver 250 donated instruments to children in northeastern Syria. The collection varies from eastern instruments, such as the oud, to western ones like cellos and saxophones.
The initiative attracted others who want to get involved with the project.
“Many people from inside Syria contacted me and offered to volunteer in the project,” Mirzo said.
“Hopefully it will encourage others to do similar things in their respective fields,” he added.
Mirzo believes that his activities and visits to Syria have also helped him remain creative and original as a musician.
“But these efforts have also allowed me to grow as a human being,” Mirzo said.