A 17-year-old girl who received an award after bringing together children from different backgrounds to perform a song she wrote about peace has said she is determined to spread her message to ‘as many people as possible’.
Asha Parkinson, who attended Weald of Kent Grammar School until the age of 16, gathered 70 pupils from three faith schools – Christian, Islamic and Jewish – to perform to hundreds of people at St James’s Piccadilly in Westminster in January.
They sang What War? a piece composed by Asha, that pushes for peace in the Middle East using ideas and direct quotations from the Talmud, Bible and Koran.
Individual messages for peace were also recorded that would be shown to 16,000 children displaced by war, who are being cared for by the charity Syria Relief.
And last month [May 18], Asha received a Diana Legacy Award from Princes William and Harry, a new accolade that recognises children and teenagers around the world for creating a positive social change in the community.
The idea first came to Asha three years ago when she started to learn about the conflict in Syria.
“I was woken up to the horrors of the world,” she said and that spurred her on to take action. “I’d raised money for war relief before, but I wanted to do something more personal. I had this idea of bringing together a thousand children for a huge choral work.
“It was just an idea when I was 14,” she said, but once she finished her GCSEs at the age of 16, she set about ‘turning the dream into a reality’.
After she enrolled at the Purcell School for Young Musicians in Hertfordshire as a jazz saxophonist, she proposed the idea and it became part of the exclusive academy’s outreach programme.
She raised £10,000 via crowdfunding and applying for grants to bring all the children together to put on the performance.
“A lot of people were very moved. Kids found great friendships – some of them had never met people from other faiths.
“I hope the project brings to the fore the values of humanitarianism and tolerance. It doesn’t matter which religion we are, we are all just humans.”
The next project Asha is working on is creating a mini-documentary to promote the work that charities are doing in and around the conflict zone.
She also has her sights set on an even larger performance next year, and she is looking to incorporate new composers.
“I’d like to expand the platform and spread the message of peace to as many people as possible,” she said.
To keep up with Asha’s progress with the project, visit: www.voicesbeyonddivisions.org