Growing up in Colombia, Heidy Malaver dreamed of studying music. Although she took voice lessons and sang in a choir, finding teachers who were trained in playing musical instruments was a challenge.
Today, as assistant to the officers at the Salvation Army’s Queens Temple Corps in New York City, Malaver offers young students attending the after– school program something that was missing from her past—an opportunity to develop their talents in art and music.
In addition to doing their homework after school, students also learn to play instruments, study music theory, and take drama classes. “We provide this so they can develop their interests and talents,” says Malaver. “We have some talented kids. For many of them, The Salvation Army is their only access to music education.”
Before going to officer training, Cadet Damaris Porchetti served on the after–school program staff at Queens Temple. She remembers the attendance growing from only a handful of students to around 30 and having to open the doors earlier than the 4 p.m. start time because some students wanted to be at the corps sooner.
“Children came to do their homework before art and music began. They were just happy to be off the streets in a safe place,” says Porchetti.
Along with the music activities, the after–school program also offers junior soldier classes to its attendees. They learn more about The Salvation Army and are encouraged to talk to their parents about becoming junior soldiers. Students who become soldiers get the chance to participate in Star Search, The Salvation Army’s yearly talent exhibition.
“But even if they are not ready to be part of The Salvation Army, we at least want them to see that we’re doing this in God’s name,” says Porchetti.
At the end of each school semester, all the after–school students put on a showcase at the corps, and the parents are welcome to attend. “The parents get very emotional at the showcase,” says Malaver. “They tell me that they love seeing their children devoted to something that can enrich their lives.”
The after–school program leaders have also helped develop a ministry beyond Queens Temple. With the help of the corps, they have sponsored a children’s program at the Merliot Corps in El Salvador.
“We don’t just want to create musicians at Queens Temple. We want to help create worshippers of God,” says Malaver, who says working with The Salvation Army has strengthened her connection with the Lord.
“Growing spiritually can come in ways you would not expect, such as in helping a child learn a new instrument,” says Malaver. “This new way to serve God has been one of my favorite things about being part of The Salvation Army.”
by Hugo Bravo