On February 12th and 13th, close to 350 people came together at Broken City Social Club in Calgary to listen to some fantastic local music, have a great time, and contribute to an important cause. The 2009 Beats Not Bullets benefit concert, an annual event entirely led by youth volunteers, benefits youth affected by war with all proceeds going directly to the Red Cross’ Child Advocacy and Rehabilitation Program (CAR) in Liberia.

Over the past 17 years, the conflict in Liberia has left countless children both physically and emotionally scarred. Many of the children, according to the Canadian Red Cross, were “abducted and forcibly conscripted to be soldiers, labourers or sex slaves.” The goal of this project is to help children recover and find a positive place in society, and to raise awareness here at home.

With nearly 350 attendees, Beats Not Bullets certainly got some attention this year. Matt Baden, assistant coordinator of the Humanitarian Issues Program, was quite pleased with the success of the event. Baden, along with 11 volunteers, put it together over the last seven months, and nearly reached their fundraising goal of $10,000. “The best part of the event for me,” he said, “was the amazing group of volunteers I had the pleasure of working with over the last few months… I can’t say enough good things about their passion and dedication to this project.”

Baden wasn’t the only one who was pleased with the project. He reports that there has been a lot of positive feedback from both the attendees and the entertainment. In fact, several of the musicians are gearing up for next years show.

The format of Beats Not Bullets this year also attracted a bit of a different crowd. “As an event,” Baden said, “I believe we have reached out to a new audience for Red Cross and other humanitarian objectives.”

Alycia Berg, a social work student at the University of Calgary, found out about Beats Not Bullets from a poster at the University. “I really liked how this event highlighted talent from the community to support a cause in the community at the same time,” Berg said. For her, it was the combination of live music, good company, and contributing to such an important program that made the event so appealing. She even promoted it among her peers and brought some friends along. “Overall,” she said, “I thought it was a great event and a great cause.”                            

In its third year Beats Not Bullets not only provided some excellent entertainment with an impressive musical line-up including Beija Flor, Nushi, The Grim Beat, Axis of Conversation, and many more, it has helped provide a means to a brighter future for war affected Liberian youth, and promoted awareness among Calgarians. In addition, the Canadian Red Cross has raised almost as much in donations this year as the two previous years combined; one can only imagine what the possibilities are for the future.