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Share International magazine January - February 2011

Share International magazine cover for 2010This is an abridged version of
Share International magazine.
Through these electronic files, the magazine Share International makes available a compilation of its contents.

The magazine is published monthly, except bimonthly in January/February and July/August of each year.

Copyright © 2011 Share International. All rights reserved.

The reproduction of Share International content in printed or electronic form, including internet websites, requires written permission which will not be unreasonably withheld. Please credit Share International as the source: © Share International. Please send clippings to: PO Box 41877, 1009 DB Amsterdam, Holland.


Rallying call!

It has come to our notice that more and more people are receiving our information from the website alone, and thus forgoing the small cost of subscribing to Share International magazine.

Not everyone can, or does, use the internet, and it is essential to have an outer, physical expression, which can display with photographs, the events of which we speak. That means there has to be a magazine, which of course requires a lot of work from volunteers, and a lot of money to produce. There may be a notion that Hierarchy dishes out money for this work, but it is not the case. Subscriptions to Share International are an essential part of maintaining our work and reaching the public. The cost of the subscription is kept as low as possible, the magazine is not subsidised by advertisements and printing and postal charges are mounting all the time.

Surely we would all agree that all those who seriously believe in this work would want to support the magazine, whether or not they read the information on the internet.

Thank you for your support.

Man’s essential Brotherhood

by the Master —, through Benjamin Creme, 17 January 2011

For untold ages, man has wandered the Earth for sustenance, gain, security and peace. As tribes and even nations, he has criss-crossed the planet over and over again, fighting with, and intermarrying with, a long succession of disparate peoples. The result of this endless wandering is the One humanity today. No matter the differences in colour, religion, tradition and language, all men are descendents of common ancestors and have evolved by the same means to their present state. That this present state undoubtedly favours some groups over others is the result of many historical factors, and not of any innate difference in intelligence or adaptability. Throughout history, groups have risen to prominence for a longer or shorter time, only to sink back into obscurity again, leaving their creativity to remind later generations of their presence.

All of this being true, it is essential for modern humanity to see itself as One, and the differences in appearance the result of relatively recent climatic conditions, together with the different ray influences which have manifested regularly through the emerging racial types. Humanity is still evolving in consciousness, together, as One.

Advancing together, each race and sub-race adds some new quality to the whole. The process of repeated incarnations ensures that gradually, each individual inherits the new knowledge and awareness of the epoch. If men truly understood the complexity and beauty of this process, gone for ever would be the dislike and distrust, the ‘racism’ of today. Men would realize that, in truth, they are brothers; journeying together on a seemingly endless voyage of self-discovery.

When We, your Elder Brothers, work more openly, you will find that this truth is central in Our understanding of man’s nature and relationship. The human family is the nourishing base of our lives. In it we learn to co-operate and thus create together, fashioning the rich tapestry of our shared identity.

How, then, can men come to this essential understanding? We, the Brotherhood, will demonstrate this relationship in all We do, and men will come to see themselves thus, as brothers all. Sharing will bring men to this happy pass and will glorify them in their new demonstration of truth. So shall it be.

Then will men conquer the heights of achievement, sharing their knowledge and experience. Gone for ever will be the false barriers which men have erected to keep at a distance their brothers, realizing them at last as themselves.


(Read more articles by the Master)

Q. How many television interviews has Maitreya given to date?

A. 31. [17 January 2011]

Q. Will the European Union break down?

A. I think eventually, yes, but not soon.

Q. There is a rumour that under the caves in Nerja, Spain, there is a UFO-base; is there any truth to this idea?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you think 2011 will bring a worldwide acceptance of and proof of the existence of UFOs and space people?

A. There will certainly be a growing interest in and acceptance of UFOs over the next years, but I doubt that it would be worldwide and proven by the end of 2011.

Q. Have we come to the end of the high level of UFO activity such as we saw in 2010?

A. No.

Q. Is it simply a matter of coincidence that several Latin American countries have female presidents?

A. Yes, but an intelligent one!

Q. How would your Master describe the health of the current world economic/financial system?

A. Precarious.

Q. I attended a rally held in Brisbane, Australia, in support of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. There was very strong support for the organization. What is the Masters’ opinion of Wikileaks?

A. The Masters are not in favour of Wikileaks. On the one hand They are in favour of the greatest openness and transparency in all governmental departments but They know that it is absurd to expect at this juncture total transparency in the diplomatic field. All governments know that they spy on each other but diplomatic secrecy is essential to maintain correct, good relations with each other.

Q. (1) Do you believe that the current Pope did indeed cover up cases of sexual abuse that priests were committing against children under their supervision? (2) Do you believe that this will weaken the position of the Pontiff in the Catholic Church? (3) Either way, do you believe that he will be the last Pope before Jesus assumes the Throne of St Peter?

A. (1) “Cover up” is too strong a term in this case. There is little doubt that rumours of such events reached his ears but not direct knowledge, and so no action was taken and no evidence sought. (2) Yes, very much. (3) Yes, I think he will but only time will tell, but the Master Jesus will not be a Pope.

Q. How is it possible that there are only four star/ships in the sky over this entire planet when I have seen with my own eyes up to five to six ships at one time over Chicago? I have seen these ships almost every night for the past eight months. It is not possible that there are only four star/ships Mr Creme. Why the misleading information?

A. The information is not meant to mislead. If you have been seeing more than one to four starlike objects, and if these were indeed the ‘star’ heralding Maitreya’s approach, then the other two were simply also spacecraft on another mission or you were mistaken and all five/six spacecraft were on their own mission and not to do with Maitreya’s ‘star’ at all. Apart from the four ‘stars’ heralding Maitreya’s approach there are, indeed, thousands of spacecraft from neighbouring planets at any given time, at work on planet Earth.

Special guest

Dear Editor,

On the evening of 31 October 2010 I was serving tea after the evening lecture at the Theosophical Society, a voluntary job I have done for many years, when a man of Indian background entered into a conversation with me. We talked about the meaning of the Indian greeting ‘namaste’ and he pointed out that it addressed the higher part of us and I told him that I had studied some Sanskrit years ago and that I admired the ancient Indian culture very much. He took a cup of tea and then went away as there were still lots of people who wanted to be served.

After a while when most of the visitors had been served he came back again and said to me: “You have a lovely energy – before I leave, can I give you a hug?” I said “yes” as he had a very friendly and benign aura around him. He then came into the kitchen where I was standing and gave me a big hug and then left. I felt very energized and could hardly sleep that night – and I am still feeling very energized even now. There was a special energy in that room at the time and many people noticed it.

Was that man Maitreya?

C.S., London, UK.

(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man was, indeed, Maitreya.)


Dear Editor,

Just as I was translating into German the second question from the December 2010 issue of Share International, “Are [Maitreya’s] interviews and responses all going according to plan?”, which was answered “Yes”, I was urged to stop and look at the card of Maitreya’s ‘hand’ which is placed on my computer. With my hands on the computer I couldn’t move and was drawn to an enormous space and depth emanating from the ‘hand’ of Maitreya, and felt calm and peaceful for that and the joy which the answer “Yes” set off. It was like a gift.

Could that have been a blessing from Maitreya?

U.R., Munich, Germany.

(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that it was a blessing from Maitreya.)


Dear Editor,

Michiko Ishikawa’s lecture on ‘The Emergence of the World Teacher and the Role of UFOs’ took place in Osaka, Japan, on 10 November 2010. It was a wonderful talk and the audience was very attentive and responded from the heart. The lecture hall was full (350 people) in spite of the weekday night.

Our group decided to advertise her lecture mainly through newspaper ads. We had some unusual experiences regarding the full-page ads.

On 22 September an agent for Sankei Shimbun, a national daily newspaper, called us to buy a full-page ad in a local paper. He said they had had a sudden cancellation, and that the price was extraordinarily low, but they needed the copy by noon on 24 September. We quickly created a full-page ad and delivered the file on time – or so we thought.

Shortly after noon on the 24th, we were surprised to learn that the file had been sent to another national daily newspaper, Mainichi Shimbun! So the file was re-sent to the right paper and the ad was published the next day.

A few days later, a Mainichi Shimbun agent phoned us, concerned that the content might not pass screening. (We hadn’t even intended to submit it to Mainichi Shimbun.) Three days later he rang again, to ask which day we would like to publish the ad. I was surprised, but requested that it be published on 29 October.

On 18 October, the Mainichi Shimbun agent phoned again and begged us to use our ad in the paper published on the 22nd. He said they had a sudden cancellation and no one would agree to advertise at such short notice. They didn’t even have time to create a new full-page ad so quickly. And the ad would be free! He very politely asked for my permission. I was stunned, and told him please, go ahead and use our ad. I had never had such an experience and could not help thinking it was a miracle.

On 27 October, a man from Sankei Shimbun phoned us. He said they were in trouble because they couldn’t fill a full-page ad for the Okayama area edition on the 30th. (The talk in Okayama was on 3 November.) I was about to decline his request because a different group was hosting that talk. He seemed so troubled that I told him I would let them know, but not to expect much, and that they would never accept his price. When I phoned a group member in Okayama, she was happily surprised, and said they would buy the ad space. They had tried to advertise the lecture but had been denied by all the local ad agencies in the Okayama area, so this was the only newspaper ad they could publish. The group was finally able to advertise at a much lower price than the original offer.

Have we been helped by the Masters in doing our outreach work?

M.U., Osaka, Japan.

(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that help was given by the Master Jesus.)

Perfectly normal

Dear Editor,

Some time ago last year (2010) I was full of self-pity, especially on one particular day. As I entered our local supermarket I was instantly confronted by what seemed, on later reflection, to be a tableau of real suffering: the first was a man in a wheelchair with what looked like a terrible amputation – just at the thigh or hip. He was just going about his business of shopping. The next person was a beautiful young woman wearing a scarf which barely concealed the fact that she was entirely bald – cancer treatment, I supposed. She, like the first man, was just doing her shopping with no self-consciousness, no self-pity – no self-reference. It was all totally normal.

Naturally, I immediately started to pull myself out of my self-involvement, but not entirely successfully.

I got to the check-out; at a check-out near me was an elderly woman who, probably due to something like cerebral palsy, found even the smallest movement a terrible effort. Taking even smallish items out of her shopping trolley and putting them onto the check-out was a heroic struggle and needed all her strength and concentration. She used both hands. She lifted with difficulty, she held with difficulty, she put down with difficulty and each time she put something down she grunted with the effort. But she was just doing her shopping.

By then I was in quiet tears, just about on the floor with the contrast between the people I had just seen and my feeble self-pity.

But the next day there was that whining self-pity again – rather less than the day before. I hadn’t gone more than 20 metres from our door when I saw a man who could hardly walk and, a few metres on, an old lady who was so bent over she could hardly shuffle forward.

Was all this just coincidence? Who were the various people? Were they Masters?

Name withheld, the Netherlands.

(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the man in the wheelchair was Maitreya, the bald ‘woman’ Master Jesus, and the ‘woman’ with palsy was Maitreya; the man near the writer’s home was Maitreya and the old bent ‘lady’ the Master Jesus.)

Peace begins at home

Dear Editor,

I was at the Royal Homeopathic hospital in London on 11 January 2011, waiting for a lift after my appointment. An old lady stood by me waiting and started chatting about her hat from Asda and how she had waited to buy it till it was reduced to half price, and now she could wear it as the weather was cold.

We got into the lift with several others. She then turned to me and said in a loud voice “what is your badge for?” I said it was for Palestine, to show support for the poor people in Palestine. (I was wearing a small Palestinian flag lapel badge.) I said it was especially for the children of Gaza who were living such terrible lives. I added that even today the Israelis are knocking down ancient hotels and houses without any warning to build a new hotel for the Israelis. One man looked quite annoyed when I said this, but the old lady said even louder: “Yes, it is wicked what the Israelis are doing, you would think after what happened to them in the war they would be kinder.”

As we got out of the lift she said she had said her prayers that morning, as she does every morning, and asked for peace and that we need peace in the world, to which I replied, yes and when we start to share the resources of the world we may get that.

Then she said: “How can we have peace on earth when we cannot have peace with our neighbours?” This startled me as we have recently had a lot of problems with our neighbour. We then parted and she said “God Bless, and I replied “God Bless to you too!”

I wondered if this person was anyone other than an old lady?

A.M., London, UK.

(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the ‘old lady’ was the Master Jesus.)

Maitreya’s Heralds

Dear Editor,

On 24 November 2010 I was in Los Angeles visiting with friends for the Thanksgiving holiday. In the afternoon I decided to go to the park in Santa Monica located along the cliff above the ocean, and take a walk. The weather was nice, not a cloud in the sky. I stayed in the park to watch a beautiful sunset. Around 5pm, when the sun had just dropped into the ocean, I noticed a big shiny object above the horizon near the area where the sun went down. So I started watching, wondering if it could be Maitreya’s ‘star’. A few minutes later another ‘star’ appeared out of the blue next to the first one, and then a third one appeared the same way. There were three stars in a line next to each other right in the light of the sunset above the ocean’s horizon. At this point I thought to myself jokingly that if these are the ‘stars’ then one is missing. A few seconds later a fourth ‘star’ appeared next to the line of three, slightly to the right side. I was watching all four ‘stars’ for some time and then one by one they ‘turned off’ and disappeared. Please, could you tell me if these four objects above the ocean were Maitreya’s ‘stars’?

O.C., Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms they were indeed Maitreya’s Heralds.)


The ‘star’ that heralds Maitreya’s emergence

On 12 December 2008 Share International distributed a news release announcing that in the very near future a large, bright star would appear in the sky visible throughout the world, night and day, heralding the imminent appearance of Maitreya in His first interview on a major US television programme. Within weeks of the announcement reports of people witnessing an unusually bright star, often moving and changing colours, began to be appear in the media and were published by Share International.

Since then sightings of the ‘star’ have been reported all over the world including letters to Share International, hundreds of YouTube videos and dozens of media reports.

Included below is a selection of recently confirmed sightings of the ‘star’.

See also: Maitreya's 'star' sign

The ‘star’, Cambridge, New Zealand, 26 December 2010 (Source: YouTube: PipOxlade)

New ZealandPip Oxlade, from Cambridge, New Zealand, describes how she and her husband witnessed the ‘star’:

“As we looked out of our sitting-room window at 10.21pm on 26 December 2010 we both saw a large golden-centred, glowing red object. There were no clouds and no other moving objects. It was a bright ‘twinkling’ glowing globe travelling gently from the north…. There was no sound whatsoever…. It was very bright, I had to squint to see its magnificent golden centre and red rim with emanating star-like light rays shining from it. It was beautiful. It then deliberately altered course 90 degrees to the east.”

The ‘star’, Nebraska, USA, 7 January 2011 (Source: YouTube: joonipuur]

Nebraska 'star'“This is the same UFO that I recorded on 8 November 2010. This one happens to be emitting cool colors. But they can change from blues, whites, purples, and greens to reds, oranges, yellows, and pinks. They are also often guarded by other UFOs patrolling the area. There is a lot of activity surrounding them. And they seem to ‘quiver’.

This is what I’ve often referred to as a ‘plasma ball’. There are usually 4 or 5 of these in the sky at night. As was the case for tonight. But this one got close enough for me to film it. They move very, very slowly. So slow you don’t even know that they’ve moved until they’re super close….”

(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms this sighting of Maitreya’s ‘star’ and comments that other spacecraft can often be seen nearby in order to service the ‘star’.)

The ‘star’, Accra, Ghana, 2 December 2010 (Source: YouTube: Njabulo007)Ghana 'star'





The ‘star’, Merced, California, USA, 3 January 2011 (Source: YouTube: welcomehomebuddha)

Merced 'star'YouTube video titled “‘Disco Ball’ UFO sighting” captures Maitreya’s ‘star’ rapidly changing colour. The video-maker describes the object:

“Amateur video footage of a multi-colored, rapidly flashing UFO in the night sky in Merced, CA on 3 January 2011 between 9pm and 1am. At quick glance, the object could have appeared to be just another bright star in the sky. However, after further observation with binoculars it was determined by several eye witnesses to be a multi-colored flashing object moving steadily to the west and further upward in altitude.

This object was viewed from Merced (central CA) and appeared to be starting directly east (over Yosemite) and then slowly migrating towards the direction of Chowchilla or Los Banos which is directly south-southeast. It also appeared to be between 33-45 degrees above the horizon…. It appears to have twin white bright lights surrounded by a circle of colored lights rapidly flashing: blue, red, green, etc…. It appears to be fixed and NOT moving with the stars – sorry people who think it is a star!!!

There also seems to be several of these same pulsing orbs slightly apart in the sky forming some kind of pattern & also NOT moving with the stars. At dusk they appear to be co-mingled with Orion’s Belt and then further in the night Orion’s Belt rises above these pulsing lights. These pulsing ‘stars/orbs’ are much different than all the other stars in the sky. If it was just a star, then why can’t I get the same pulsing effect when I zoom at ANY other star? Also, why won’t these stars move with the other stars?”

Maitreya’s ‘star’, as seen by P.V.

Brighton 'star'Dear Editor,

Recently, on two occasions, I went to Brighton, England, with my family. On 24 July 2010, around 10pm, on St James Street, a couple watching the sky caught my attention. There was an orange-coloured UFO. By the time grabbed my camera it had moved across the sky. I was eager to fix it on film as our Transmission Meditation group back home had long been trying to catch a glance of the ‘star’ with no result and I had even bought a new camera to better film it.

They must have heard me up there, for two minutes later the UFO came back in the opposite direction. To my delight, I could film extensively, and again on the next two days when it flew back and forth above Brighton Pier, even making a stop for a while. On the 26th, in spite of the cloudy sky, it showed up once again briefly. I felt the mess­age was: “We are here to help, we can hear you,” and I could feel a profound gratit­ude towards the Masters and the Space Brothers for all their work. I put the film on YouTube.

We went to Brighton again. On 25 September, at Madeira Place, around 8pm, we were blessed to see two UFOs, both reddish in colour: they took position above the sea, as if they had been waiting for us. Also, during the summer get-together of the French group in Usson, France, on 10 July, we saw a white UFO flying across the sky in the evening. Were these all UFOs or the ‘star’?

P.V., Bruguières, France.

(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the “orange-coloured UFO”, captured on film in July 2010, was Maitreya’s ‘star’. The UFOs seen in Brighton on 25 September and the “white UFO” seen in Usson on 10 July, were, indeed, spaceships.)

Nova Scotia 'star'

The ‘star’, Nova Scotia, Canada, 26 December 2010 (Source: YouTube: bundra1) 


Hamilton 'star'The ‘star’, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 24 December 2010. (Source: YouTube: pilkan) “Some bright multi colored lights in the sky of Hamilton, Ontario, on and off from 5pm to 9pm.” 

Maui 'star'Maui, USA, 2 December 2010, “Unexplained object” filmed by Tyler Winegar is Maitreya’s ‘star’. (Source: YouTube: Winegar) 




Centreville UFOCentreville, Virginia – A bright blue light was spotted in the night sky on 3 November 2010. MyFox news channel reported: “No one seems to have an explanation for this unidentified flying object.”

Shoppers near Lee Highway looked up and saw “something weird” and Bryan Fains caught it on camera. “All of a sudden, it would stop and go back like this,” he said using his finger to point out the direction of the blue light in the sky. “At one point, it stopped and went up and up.”

Fains quickly grabbed his phone, turned on the camera and recorded the erratic blue light in the night sky. It flew around for about 10 minutes. “[There] was no sound. It was a distinct blue light. It never flashed or blinked or nothing. It was just blue,” said Fains. “It’s weird. You only see this type of stuff in movies. Just as long as we’re here, I’m pretty sure there are other people, other things somewhere.” The apparent UFO sighting has him baffled. (Source:

(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that it was a spacecraft from Mars.)

[Add photo]

Dear Editor,

Spain UFOIn November 2010, while on holiday in southern Spain in an area known for UFO activity, we saw two disc-shaped clouds above the nearby mountains (see photo above, taken at about 5pm). Within a matter of seconds, as we watched, the upper of these two clouds evaporated and vanished completely, while the lower one remained totally distinct.

Spain UFO nr 2Totally independently, from a point several kilometres away, an acquaintance photographed the same phenomenon a short while later when only one of the two clouds remained (photo below).

Were these formations UFOs?

J.C., Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that the formations were spaceships from Mars, disguised as clouds.)

Body signDear Editor,

I am a healer living in Ettlingen, near Karlsruhe, Germany. Between 9 and 10 November 2010 I discovered a sign on the left side of my abdomen near the navel when I came out of the bathroom. I don’t know how it appeared there. Could you tell me if it was manifested by a Master and possibly what is the meaning of this sign for me?

C.K., Ettlingen, Germany.

(Benjamin Creme’s Master confirms that it is a sign from the Master Jesus. It is a blessing. He has His eye on you.)

Light at the End of the Tunnel:

A Survival Plan for the Human Species

Book review by Gerard Aartsen – an extract

Book coverFormer Canadian defence minister Paul Hellyer instantly rose to fame within the circles of disclosure and exopolitics activists when he declared, in a speech at the Exopolitics Toronto Symposium in September 2005, that “UFOs are as real as the airplanes flying overhead” and that “the veil of secrecy must be lifted”.

In his recent book Light at the End of the Tunnel: A Survival Plan for the Human Species, Mr Hellyer likewise does not mince his words about the need for governments to get real about the problems confronting humanity, urging a view of what he calls a “broader” versus a “narrow” reality.

His heartfelt call for openness in all matters UFO came after he had learned that the authenticity of the Roswell crash, as described in a book by retired Colonel Philip J. Corso, was confirmed by a retired USAF general, who told him: “Every word of it is true, and more.” Mr Hellyer’s address also earned him, in his own words, “the dubious distinction of becoming the first person of cabinet rank from the G8 group of countries to say unequivocally that UFOs are real, we are not alone in the cosmos, and we had better get used to it”.

That this distinction is absolutely deserved becomes clear from Light at the End of the Tunnel in which the author connects the dots between what must be a unique array of subjects to many of his readers. And while most Share International readers will already be familiar with the interrelatedness of the challenges which Mr Hellyer analyzes in his book, they too will find it a breath of fresh air among the myriad books that seem bent on exponentially increasing the number of hysterical conspiracies – Earth-spun or of suspected extra-terrestrial origin….

Before setting out on his extraordinary journey to connect dots in a way that eludes most present-day commentators, the author identifies three “principal elements” that he says are required to “put the planet earth on the road to recovery and its inhabitants on a path of undeniable hope”. The first of these is “the availability of reliable sources of energy to replace fossil fuels”; the second is “a world culture of co-operation in contrast with the traditional desire to dominate and rule supreme”; and the third is a monetary and banking system that facilitates the transition from an economy that depends on oil and the perpetual slavery of the impoverished people of the world.

Injustice, whether economic, social, ecological, political, religious, or scientific, is indeed seen by the author as a major obstacle to salvaging the world. Thus it is that in one chapter he eloquently and movingly denounces the plight of the Palestinian people as he experiences the Israeli policy of oppression first-hand, and in another sums up all the compelling evidence of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin that is ignored by debunkers; in the same chapter he identifies the ‘star’ of Bethlehem as “one of God’s spaceships”….

With the same ease with which he gives an overview of convincing stories of contactees Mr Hellyer outlines the nefarious forces on Earth that are struggling with all their might to hold humanity in thrall to the economic power which they wield through constant warfare and conflict.

In the chapter ‘Ending the World Financial Crisis’, the author states his case for a complete restructuring of the global financial and economic system, pointing out with keen insight the flaws of the current reality, “where a combination of greed and incompetence can doom billions of people to lives of misery and hopelessness”.…

As such, Light at the End of the Tunnel: A Survival Plan for the Human Species proposes solutions that are based on principles which slowly but surely are dawning in the minds of practical, reasonable human beings who recognize the fact of the one humanity: sharing, justice and co-operation.

Paul Hellyer, Light at the End of the Tunnel: A Survival Plan for the Human Species. AuthorHouse, UK, 2010. ISBN 978-1-4490-7612-2.

Playing for Change – an extract

Interview with Whitney Kroenke

by Felicity Eliot

Grammy-winning producer/engineer and award-winning film director Mark Johnson had a brainwave in 2001 as he walked down a Santa Monica street. He heard a lovely voice singing a unique rendering of the well-known song “Stand by me”. That wistful, touching voice belonged to Roger Ridley, a street musician who is always to be found in Santa Monica every Saturday. Why not film and record street musicians around the States?

Mark discussed his idea with Whitney Kroenke and as they talked the project which became Playing for Change (PFC) took shape.

Whitney, always idealistic and determined to make a difference in the world, has a background in theatre and choreography. After pursuing her theatre career both off-Broadway and in London, Whitney returned to Los Angeles “to focus on the creation of forward thinking films and theatre that advocate positive social change”. As Playing For Change expanded, Whitney became the Executive Director of the Playing For Change Foundation (PFCF) in 2007. Felicity Eliot interviewed her for Share International.

Share International: Playing for Change has been going barely ten years and you have achieved so much. As co-founder you have seen the initial idea grow and change. Did you and Mark Johnson just get the idea while chatting?

Whitney Kroenke: Yes, it was just like that. It’s actually been nine years since we started Playing for Change. It started out very slowly and grew organically. I was 23 years old at the time, optimistic. I was very interested in art in the public sphere and performance art on the streets. Honestly, we didn’t have a sense of where it would lead and what we would find other than the idea of making a documentary showing street musicians.

SI: So the development of linking people around the world through music was later?

WK: We tried to keep ourselves very open to all possibilities and to let things work out and develop naturally, organically. We were patient and let things take their course; I think that’s why our work resonates with people. The work that most people associate with PFC came later.

SI: Could you please explain PFC’s mission?

WK: As you’ve gathered, our first goal changed gradually from making a documentary to a multimedia movement; the aim is to connect people, to inspire people, especially children, and we believe that peace can be achieved through music. We are convinced that music has the power to sweep away barriers and boundaries; it brings people together – whatever their backgrounds. And, we’ve seen through our work that it overcomes distances between people. However different people’s backgrounds – national, political, economic, spiritual or ideological – we’ve experienced that music can transcend and unite us as one human race.

SI: So gradually your ideas expanded and you thought of linking the musicians you were recording and filming in the United States with other musicians around the world?

WK: Yes. We wanted to do something with the idea of connecting people through music.

SI: I read that you decided to go to South Africa and that it was there the idea of a music school came about? It seems a big and surprising step to take?

WK: It was really strange; Mark had received a gift from his brother of a photograph from a book called A Day in the Life of Africa; it was a picture of a group of musicians during the apartheid era playing outside in a township near Cape Town in South Africa. Mark was fascinated by the photograph and had it hanging on a wall in his home. We started to do some research into the music of the townships of South Africa and we realized that this would be a great way to connect people – by linking their performances. So because of that photograph that’s where we decided to start. And, we actually found one of the musicians who was in that picture! His name is Pokei Klaas, and our first music school was built on a piece of land he owns in Gugulethu township.

Gugulethu is what is known in South Africa as a ‘township’ which is, in reality, synonymous with ‘shanty town’ or ‘slum area’. In the apartheid years of racial segregation these were the ghettoes where black people lived in conditions of great privation. Even in post-World Cup South Africa tourists arriving in Cape Town are confronted with this shanty town soon after leaving the bright new international airport.

It was here in the Spring of 2008 that the PFC Foundation (PFCF) started helping to build a music school for the children and young people of Gugulethu and early in the following year the Ntonga Music School opened. Musical instruments were provided by PFCF and children fill the building after school hours. Local people say the school helps bring hope and the possibility of a future in an area still battling with all the problems poverty and marginalization bring – drugs, disease and crime.

WK: Ntonga isn’t only a music school, it’s become a community centre, too, and brings people together. Guest musicians perform there for the children and the local people.

SI: I gather that PFCF now has seven programmes, 600 students – in about seven or eight places around the world – is that right?

WK: Yes, seven different places; four on the continent of Africa – South Africa, Ghana, Mali and Rwanda - and Patan and Kathmandu in Nepal. Our second school is in Tamale in Ghana. The building of the Bizung School was completed in February 2010. Teachers were hired, 150 students enrolled and classes began two months later. The children are taught drumming, dance, xylophone, gonje [single string viol] and singing. For many students at the Bizung School of Music and Dance this is their first time going to a school of any kind; there are no other tuition-free schools in the northern region of Ghana at present….

SI: Do you ever get comments suggesting that music is all very well, but how does it help people who have no clean water, for example?

WK: Yes. And that’s something we want to address. We want to meet people’s basic needs first. We want to be contact or access points for various forms of aid, including water, electricity and healthcare. In Mali we’re working with the local people to try to help provide water, ensure that the local maternity clinic has water, install solar panels and so on. We don’t want to just arrive and hand out musical instruments while people have no water….

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Note: There are many more inspiring stories to tell of Playing for Change’s work in its various programmes. A visit to their website is a moving, uplifting and joyful experience. Playing For Change Foundation is a non-profit organization which is supported by its sister organization PlayingFor which helps to create funding through some merchandizing. PFCF depends largely on donations.

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First published April 1999,