Young people use music to fight violence in El Salvador

San Salvador, Jul 14 (EFE).- About 1,000 children, teenagers and young people living in high-crime areas in El Salvador have found the best way to prevent violence in a musical program promoted by the World Bank and financed by Japan.

"Many more" youths were called on to apply, but following the selection process "we're working with 1,000," the president of the Salvadoran Foundation for Education and Labor, the Spanish Salesian priest Jose Maria Moratalla Escudero, better known as "Padre Pepe," told EFE.

The Don Bosco Youth Symphony Orchestra debuted just over a year ago in San Salvador, the program's director Moratalla said.

The project got underway three years ago and, of the 1,000 students from different public schools in San Salvador province, some 470 make music, with 220 in the symphony orchestra and 250 in the chorus, while the rest are in training.

The 25-year-old conductor of the orchestra, Bryan Cea, like his musicians, comes from a notoriously crime-ridden district.

The youths live together as brothers without problems at the Don Bosco Industrial Polygon, home of the project, despite belonging to communities ruled by rival street gangs Mara Salvatrucha and Pandilla 18, which also surround this refuge in a neighborhood known as Las Iberias.

The project has been financed with at least $1 million from the Japan Social Development Fund, administered by the World Bank, an analyst at the international financial institution, Jania Ibarra, said.

The World Bank's aid ends July 22, but Moratalla said the project will continue and the foundation will try to integrate it into other cultural workshops they offer, with the help of other organizations.