Leveraging the power of music to foster health and social justice
Caravaan was founded in Uganda in 2004 on the premise that music can enhance the delivery of health services and foster social cohesion.
In September 2004, the US Embassy, in cooperation with the Ugandan non-government organization Jamii Ya Kupatanisha – Fellowship of Reconciliation, funded a music performance given by the Kampala Jazz All Stars in the internally displaced peoples’ (IDP) camp in Soroti, Uganda. Originally, the concert was intended as a day of respite for the residents of the camp who had suffered unconscionable indignation and been stripped of their inalienable rights over the last two decades due to civil war. However, a day prior to the performance, the concert organizers invited TASO (The AIDS Support Organization) and the Red Cross to deliver health services during the performance. The music served as a catalyst to bring people together, and we discovered that the performance atmosphere increased the uptake of health services.
The NGOs set up tents and tables in the periphery of the event and delivered their services. A well-known local music and dance group was invited; they performed on their own as well as with the organizing band members. This engendered a feeling of solidarity with the local community and its culture. The health organizations were given the opportunity to use the PA system on stage to address the audience in their local languages to deliver health promotion and education messages and to encourage people to use the services provided (HIV testing, de-worming, vitamin A). Utilization of the health services at the event was the highest the NGOs had ever seen. We believe that music was a fundamental part of promoting health seeking behavior and even appeared to reduce the stigma associated with HIV testing as community members lined up publicaly to get an HIV test. Based on these observations, Caravaan was founded the following year.
Over the subsequent years in Uganda, Caravaan partnered with local musicians to integrate music into the delivery of health services and to enhance social cohesion. Multiple concerts to thousands of IDP camp residents replicated the findings that health utilization was enhanced by music performance. In addition, professional musicians from Caravaan’s anchor band—the Kampala Jazz All Stars—worked closely with local and traditional musicians to integrate their work into music and health service performances.
Caravaan initiatives have so far been supported through individual, corporate and religious organizations, as well as social entrepreneurial endeavors.