With a strong voice, full of hope and life, fourth-grade student Karim Al Aklouk has broken down the barriers imposed on him, both by his visual impairment and by living in the Gaza Strip. Ever since he was a toddler, he loved to sing: "I used to use a bottle to make musical rhythms and songs."
Karim’s strong voice and talent were discovered by his music teacher while in second grade at UNRWA’s Rehabilitation Centre for the Visually Impaired (RCVI), a school in Gaza for Palestine refugees with visual impairments.
"He has a great voice that adapts easily to the tones", his teacher said. Over the past two years, they worked together to strengthen and improve his vocal abilities even further.
Training turns talent into success
Aided by the music curriculum at RCVI and the one-on-one support from his teacher, Karim started to perform at community events, in universities, community centres, and at special events hosted by organisations based in Gaza.
He soon came to the attention of the Rostropovich Vishnevska Association, which selected him for Al Sununu ("the swallow"), a children’s choir programme made up of students from across the Middle East. Like Karim, many of the children selected for Al Sununu attend UNRWA schools across the Agency’s five fields of operation.
All of them were trained in a range of musical styles, including a basic education in music theory. The children were given a chance to showcase their talents in a music competition on 23 February, where Karim performed the traditional Palestinian song "Where to Ramallah".
A promising future
He won first-place at the competition, granting him a full four-year scholarship to the prestigious Edward Said National Conservatory.
"Karim won the scholarship based on his competence", said Arab Mohamed, the project manager for Al Sununu in Gaza. His remarkable talent, supported by his teachers, choir, and community, will ensure that Karim has a promising future in the world of music.
In the meantime, he will continue to sing with Al Sununu, where a joint concert will soon bring children from across the fields together through a satellite link.
To support children like Karim to overcome barriers, make a donation to UNRWA’s programmes for Palestine refugees.