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For as long as she can remember, Karen Chisumo, grade 4, has always loved to sing. With the help of Sistema Kingston, Karen has been able to enhance her singing skills, learn new instruments, and make new friends!

The Chisumo family moved from Tanzania to Canada in 2022 for Karen’s father, Rujama, to study international business at St. Lawrence College in Kingston. Karen and her sister were enrolled at St. Thomas More Catholic School. Just a few months after Karen started at the school, Sistema Kingston launched their second site there. Rujama was excited when he heard about Sistema, “The schools in Tanzania don’t have extracurriculars like these for the kids,” Rujama reflected.

Sistema Kingston provides students with accessible education and music experience. Sistema Kingston removes the financial barriers associated with musical education and in doing so, they foster an environment which values equity, diversity, and inclusion. Within participating families from Molly Brant and St. Thomas More schools, there are 15 different languages spoken in students’ homes. The Chisumo family is representative of this diversity as their family speaks Swahili—Tanzania’s national language.

Karen has now been a part of the Sistema Kingston family for a year and a half. She incorporates the program’s values of kindness, patience, teamwork, willpower, and participation into her daily life. “I think Sistema has helped her to become a leader, collaborate with other kids, be more responsible, and learn new skills” Rujama said.

Some of Karen’s favourite moments of the program are getting to know the students from Molly Brant. One example she shared was a trip to the Queen’s Athletics & Recreation Centre where students from both schools went swimming together. “We swam, sang, played games, and got to know the kids from Molly Brant,” said Karen. Sistema Kingston values and promotes this connectivity between students, families, and community. After talking with Karen and Rujama, it is clear that friendship is a common theme. Not only did Karen make new friends with other students but Rujama also made new friendships with some of the other parents.

When Karen talks about the support she receives from teachers in Sistema Kingston, she has nothing but good things to say: “Whenever we mess up Ms. Sofie doesn’t tell us we are doing it wrong, she tells us that it’s okay and to keep trying,” says Karen.

With guidance and encouragement from teachers and friends in the program, Karen has built on her musical talents. She started learning the violin, which she sees herself continuing in the years to come. She has also worked on singing and drumming, all of which were on display in her performance at the year-end concert at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on May 9th. The hard work, dedication, and perseverance that Karen and her peers put into preparing for this concert did not go unnoticed. The enthusiastic audience of parents, families, and community members filled the Isabel Bader Concert Hall.

Sistema Kingston has given both Karen and her family opportunities to meet new people and make new connections. Karen has been focusing on building her musical skills and has even started taking piano lessons outside of the program. Karen is excited to continue in the Sistema Kingston program and looks forward to strengthening her music skills alongside her friends and the support of her beloved teachers.