The recorder is a simple woodwind instrument mostly forgotten in the world of music except for its role as a teaching tool for young students. And for about 200 children at CHC's Maddox Chivan Children's Center in Phnom Penh, which has offered a unique program of multidisciplinary outpatient and social/educational care to over 1,000 Cambodian children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS since 2006, it's an instrument they are not going to forget about anytime soon.
"Music has been the joy of my life," explains 16 year old Natalie Sereda, a student at Highland Park High School, just outside Chicago. "And I want to bring the joy and hope of music to elementary school children who otherwise would not have access to musical instruments and instruction."
Through fundraising, pleas and donations, Natalie and her family, collected 500 recorders and raised funds to finance a trip to the Maddox Chivan Children's Center in Phnom Penh.
And this past June, Natalie, an accomplished pianist and classical bass and guitar player, her 13 year old brother Joey, an avid hockey and football player and an accomplished oboe player, her parents, and elementary music teacher Janet Lubetkin and her husband, social studies teacher Andy Lubetkin, made the trek to Phnom Penh for five days of music, concerts, geography instruction, and fun and games.
"It was an unforgettable experience," Natalie says. "To have the opportunity to bring so much happiness to a group of children so affected by problems children should not have to face such as TB and HIV, will stay with me forever.
"And the kids were so quick to learn," she continues. "It usually takes about three months to learn the recorder, but after a few days they got it. They were so excited and enthusiastic and so happy to see us each day we were there."
Music teacher Janet Lubetkin echoes the sentiment.
"As a teacher and musician, it is amazing to think that we were actually improving the world at that particular moment in time," she says. "I left with the feeling that these children can do anything they set out to do."
Also in attendance was Global Health Committee/CHC President and Co-founder Anne Goldfeld.
"Dr. Thim (CHC's Executive Director) and I are very grateful and were extremely impressed with the high quality program that Natalie, her family and the Lubetkins brought to the MCCC," Anne says. "The children loved learning music and geography. It was an eye opening experience for them to formally learn an instrument. The smiles, laughter and pride of accomplishment filled the center "