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Rwanda Youth Music

In the 1990s Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo suffered brutal violence and conflicts. Although Rwanda has maintained peace, ongoing effects, fighting and instability continue in the region today. Importantly, fuelling this violence are histories of colonial oppression, based on war, profit, division and injustice.

Amidst many tragedies, one consequence of conflict in the Great Lakes region of Africa was the rapid spread of HIV. During the 100-day genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, an estimated 150,000 people contracted HIV.

Rwanda Youth Music began in 2012 in response to the legacies of genocide in Rwanda, and the ongoing cycles of violence in the region.

Rwanda Youth Music empowers young people to be actors for change within their own communities and beyond. We build the skills of these local actors in order to provide lasting changes to individuals, communities, and to the infrastructure of care provision in Rwanda. 

Over the past 12 years, Rwanda Youth Music has reached over 50,000 children and youth, focussing on communities that face multiple vulnerabilities for their futures, such as in neighbourhoods living in poverty, those living in refugee camps, former street children, orphans, and young people facing challenges to their wellbeing and health. Many of these challenges are cross-cutting, resulting in multiple points of vulnerability for young people who face vastly reduced opportunities for their futures. We work with these children and youth, providing opportunities for creativity, expression and communication. This can be transformative.

Rwanda Youth Music 2024

In 2024, we will augment the expertise of the Rwanda Youth Music team by incorporating approaches from the field of music therapy. The evidence-based approaches of music therapy, targeted towards the care of young people facing the physical and social challenges of disability or HIV, add considerable value to care. Trained music leaders will deliver regular sessions at care and education settings in Kigali, and at the Rwinkwavu District Hospital in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. At the WE-ACTx for Hope clinic in Kigali, young music leaders will provide regular support through music to children and youth living with the affects of HIV.

Regional Hub of Expertise

Over the past ten years, Rwanda Youth Music has become a regional hub of expertise, running trainings across Rwanda, and the region – in Uganda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The strong team of trainers, community music leaders and project coordinators drove the development of Kivu Youth Music in the Democratic Republic of Congo, fuelled by their own personal knowledge of the positive impact music can have.

Chris Nicholson

Regional program manager East Africa

Shyaka Allison

Program officer

Uwamahoro Madina

WE-ACTx for Hope: Music program coordinator

Uwamariye Emelynne

WE-ACTx for Hope: Music program coordinator

Kana Yves

WE-ACTx for Hope: Trainer

Rukengeza Espoir

WE-ACTx for Hope: Trainer

Bonani Djuma

WE-ACTx for Hope: Trainer


Guest Blog: Amelia Caesar-Homden on Working with Rwanda Youth Music

We work in Rwanda in partnership with WE-ACTx for Hope, to bring music workshops, lessons,…
March 13, 2024

Project Launch in North Kivu, DRC: Music of the Landscape

Over the years at Musicians Without Borders, we have constantly seen how music, dance, and…
November 9, 2023

Rwanda Youth Music: A Lifeline During My Darkest Days

Rwanda Youth Music provided me with a lifeline during my darkest days and empowered me…
September 21, 2023

Borletti-Buitoni Trust supports Rwanda Youth Music

We are very excited to announce that Musicians Without Borders has been selected as a…
March 24, 2023

The Urgency of Now: World AIDS Day 2022

This blog was written by Chris Nicholson, Regional Program Manager for our work in East…
November 30, 2022

Animating Voices, Animating Youth

Throughout November 2022, leading up to World AIDS Day on December 1st, we are proud and…
November 1, 2022

How we are working in the Democratic Republic of Congo

This blog was written by Chris Nicholson, Regional Program Manager for our work in East…
October 24, 2022

Access to music is healthcare

In Rwanda, music activities and support groups for young people living with HIV have been…
December 2, 2020

Band camp in Rwanda

In January 2020, we began a very exciting new collaboration across Musicians Without Borders programs,…
April 16, 2020

Resilience: Rwanda Youth Music

At Musicians Without Borders we work within the framework that it is possible for people…
September 13, 2019

View from Rwanda: Ally, project assistant

‘‘I’ve known this boy for two years but I have never seen him smile until…
November 8, 2016

Graduation day in Mahama refugee camp

Over the past twelve months, we have worked with a group of thirty young people…
June 17, 2016

A view from Rwanda by Ally

One of the refugees from Burundi who we work with in Rwanda at Mahama camp…
April 5, 2016

They are heroes

Reflections from Otto de Jong, one of our most senior trainers, on his recent trip…
November 17, 2015

Because they were hiding, they couldn’t sing

by Chris Nicholson "Because the tutsis were hiding, they couldn’t sing.” This testimony of a…
April 13, 2015


by Chris Nicholson “No Chris, I think it should be this…” and he corrected my…
March 17, 2015

“I am fine, thank you.”

by Chris Nicholson It took me a couple of months of giving therapy sessions before…
January 24, 2015

One… Four, five…

by Chris Nicholson ONE, two and, three and, FOUR, FIVE, six and; ONE, two and,…
September 22, 2014

The sound and the silence of music

by Chris Nicholson As a music therapy student I learnt to hear silence as an…
June 5, 2014

Rwandan music box

The carpenter who makes the cajons talks to my friend in Kinyarwanda, telling her he…
December 1, 2013

Rain drumming down

by Chris Nicholson When the rain comes down in Kigali it bounces off the ground…
October 21, 2013

Ribbits in Rwanda

by Chris Nicholson With the frog scraper, you scrape a stick across the instrument’s wooden…
September 20, 2013

Established in

Active in
Democratic Republic of Congo
Tanzania (past program)
Uganda (past program)

Key partners
WE-ACTx for Hope

Key numbers


participants to date


community music leaders trained