A Southwark charity that will be representing the Latin American’s of London in next New Year’s Day parade are fundraising to bring 27 poverty-stricken children from a marching band over from El Salvador after new visa regulations as seen costs of them to visit sky rocket.
The youth marching band said they would struggle to perform in the London New Years’ Day parade after visas were imposed to curb increase in asylum applications.
In May the UK imposed a visa requirement for Salvadorans looking to enter the country after a reported spike in asylum applications. According to Reuters, last year the UK received the highest for a country whose citizens could visit without a visa; a total of 703 applications.
Willian Soriano, Salvadoran and Carnaval del Pueblo volunteer, says many Salvadorans were seeking asylum for poverty, which is not listed as a valid reason to claim. “Poverty is not one of the things you can claim asylum for, so when the government found that out, they decided to put visas in place to deter people.”
Carnaval del Pueblo, which has base at Peckham, is the official Latin American partner of the London New Years’ Day parade (and this year staged a festival in Burgess Park after a twelve year absence due to funding and Covid.
Boinas Verdes Marching band, from San Juan Opico in El Salvador, asked Carnaval del Pueblo back in January if they could perform, after seeing last years’ parade on social media. Renzo Fuentes, who started the band 20 years ago, says: “It became my dream to see the band marching down Piccadilly Circus.”
“I want to show the children that every dream can be achieved with hard work, and to give them the opportunity to represent their country.”
But since visas were imposed, they’ve been struggling to afford the travel costs.
Carnaval del Pueblo have set up a fundraising page to help them. “We’re raising £5,000 to bring 27 children in the band the chance to come and perform in the parade,” says Director Nuala Riddell-Morales.
Willian was a part of the band when he was a child and says, after growing up in poverty, the band was what steered him onto the right path. “For me, Boinas Verdes was my Narnia. It was the place where I could escape from criminality.”
“I didn’t have many opportunities, but thanks to this band, instead of getting into crime, I was practising music – I was learning something positive!”
“I know how helpful it is for the kids now. They might not even realise, but it keeps them away from criminals. Renzo is saving a lot of lives.”
He hopes that them coming over will show people the beauty of El Salvador.
“Most of the public, when you mention El Salvador, all they think is of the high levels of criminality, the bad things going on there – but our country is more than that.”
“We want to show the beauty of El Salvador!” he adds.
In addition, the British Ambassador to El Salvador, David Lelliot OBE will also host a fundraiser event in October for this ‘very exciting initiative.’
As “one of the biggest street parades in Europe”, Nuala says this could be life-changing for the children.
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