Laurie Kallevig’s Survivor Girl Ukulele Project

Oct 22, 2014

IMG_1239For most of us, human trafficking is a grim statistic in the news. For Laurie Kallevig, it’s up-close-and-personal. She works with survivors of human trafficking in India.

Laurie’s work is unique; she brings ukuleles to India and teaches girls (and more recently, boys) to play the instruments. She hopes, eventually, these young survivors will “write the soundtrack to the movie of their own lives.” 

Laurie traveled through India fifteen years ago and while aware of the human trafficking problem, didn’t see how she could make a difference. Then, a few years ago, she woke up with the words “rescue and restore” ringing in her ears and decided it was time to get involved.

The Survivor Girl Ukulele Band Project (SGUB) was born.

Fittingly, the SGUB Project is primarily funded through benefit concerts with two San Gabriel Valley events fast approaching. On Sunday, October 26th, Musical Director Ed Tree, a highly respected music producer and guitarist, marshals an impressive roster of talent at Bethany Church in Sierra Madre. Presented by Tree and Wine & Song creator/host Brad Colerick, the concert features powerhouse songwriting collective the Tall Men Group: Marty Axelrod, Severin Browne, Jeff Kossack, John Stowers, Ed Tree, and Jimmy Yessian. Other artists include: Aireene Espiritu, Kendall Forrey, Lorin Hart, John O’Kennedy, Tim Tedrow and Bliss Bowen.

Regarding the co-hosts’ passion for Laurie’s work in India, producer Sharon Hannah quotes Tree. “We’re not doing this for the musicians playing, we’re not even doing this for Laurie. We’re doing this for those girls in India who really have nothing.”

Hannah notes that Bethany Church will be preparing a free, pre-concert Indian feast in Laurie’s honor; RSVP by Friday, October 24 to

On Sunday, November 2nd, Brit Rodriguez and Smoking Jackets with Heidi Swedberg will perform on behalf of Survivor Girl Ukulele Band at the Coffee Galley Backstage.

You’ll want to attend both concerts after hearing about Laurie’s inspiring work.


Laurie Kallevig CU (1)

Laurie Kallevig


Kim Ohanneson: Describe your typical day with the children. What is the age range?

Laurie Kallevig: My typical process is to start with a small size class, just six girls, and teach them for a few days, building in a lot of individualized attention and a lot of fun and success. We start with songs that they know, songs in their own language.

Soon I add another small class to the schedule and maybe even have one of the students from the first class join the second class and help to translate and teach. Next, I combine the two classes and have twelve students at about the same level. Then I add another class of beginners, and so on, building to up to two or three classes per day, each about an hour and a half in length.

Last year in Pune, I was in a rescue home that had mostly major girls, 18 years and older. Most were in the 19 to 22 year old range, but a few students were in their early 30s.

This year in Mysore (working at Odanadi Seva Trust), my students ranged from 9 years old to 19 years old. And while I didn’t have formal classes for the little ones, I tried to make time to let the little ones (5-8 years old) come in and play and strum and make believe they are rock stars.

Often the students can’t stop playing, even to pay attention to learn the next thing, and I like to think they are lost in ukuleleland—that magical place of sound and vibration and strum, strum, strumming; a place where the bad memories fade and the music and hope and dreams of a better future come to life.


Laurie Kallevig Survivor Boys (1)


KO: Where in India have you shared music and the ukulele? Where would you like to go next? Do you hope to expand beyond India?

Laurie: Last year in 2013, I taught for about four months in a rescue home in Pune. Most of my longer-term students were repatriated to their homes in India and Bangladesh, and then unfortunately, that rescue home discontinued the survivor girl ukulele band project. (That’s a whole other story.) So then for six weeks I experimented with teaming up with an organization in Mumbai and taught at one of their drop-in centers in a small red-light area. The women I taught there were working prostitutes and pimps.

This year, 2014, I was teaching at the renowned Odanadi Seva Trust in Mysore. They have a girls home and a boys home, and I taught at both homes.

Survivor Girl Ukulele Band Project 2015 will be in Kolkata, one of the largest human trafficking hubs in the world. I’ll be working at the shelter homes of Sanlaap ( They have over 250 girls in their four shelter homes, and I am really looking forward to it!!!

Many thousands of girls are trafficked from Nepal and Bangladesh into India, and I hope to expand SGUB Project to both of those countries some day.

KO: Which human rights and survivor advocacy groups help you connect with survivors and how do you find each other?

Laurie: Freedom Firm in Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India; Impulse NGO Network in Shillong, Meghalaya, India; and Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA) in Dhaka are the three NGOs that have helped me connect with rescue homes in which to teach. Then I work directly with the rescue home and teach the residents of those rescue homes.


Survivor Girl and Boy_a


KO: Survivor Girl Ukulele Band Project is now part of Millennium Relief & Development Services (, a 501c3 non-profit organization that provides fiscal sponsorship for small humanitarian projects.  

You have also partnered with Kala Brand Music in Petaluma, California, which has donated Makala Dolphin Ukuleles, and Worth Premium Ukulele Strings of Kobe, Japan.  What else is on your “wish list” in terms of expanding the project?

Laurie: It has been so great to have the continued support of Kala Brand Music and Worth Premium Strings!! There are a couple of music stores in India that I’ve spoken with who are interested in helping my project as well.

When my students achieve a high enough level of skill, they are awarded their own ukulele. It is my hope that playing the ukulele will not only be a source of restoration and joy and hope and fun for the rest of their lives, but that they will share that joy and fun with others, teaching others how to play the ukulele.




Last year in the rescue home in Pune, most of my students were about to leave and be repatriated to their countries and re-joined to their families. In order for them to “earn” their ukulele to take with them, I required my top students to write an original song.  They didn’t want to do it. They said, we can’t do it. And then I showed them how to write a simple song and said they had to do it or no ukulele. They came back with some amazing songs. So it’s on my “wish list” to make some professional recordings of some of these songs and maybe even try to sell these songs for a small donation to Survivor Girl Ukulele Band Project—and then be able to financially help those artists.

In addition, my “wish list” is to expand Survivor Girl Ukulele Band Project through my students, to actually financially support some of my survivor girl and boy students. Either to employ them as Survivor Girl Ukulele Band Project teachers in rescue homes—to do exactly the same thing I do—or to help launch them in their own personal ukulele teaching careers in a private studio their hometown.

If I could help launch my students into a dignified and artistic and fun and fulfilling career teaching ukulele—wow, that would be amazing.




For more stories about the survivor girls and boys go to:
For more about Survivor Girl Ukulele Band Project, go to:
Survivor Girl Ukulele Band is also on Facebook.


Benefit Concert for Laurie Kallevig and her Survivor Girl Ukulele Band
Presented by Brad Colerick and Ed Tree and featuring the Tall Men Group + more
Sunday, October 26 at 7:00 p.m.
Bethany Church, 93 North Baldwin, Sierra Madre, CA 91024
Cost: $15 suggested donation


Laurie Kallevig’s Survivor Girl Ukulele Band Project
Coffee Gallery Backstage Benefit Concert featuring: Brit Rodriguez ~ Smoking Jackets with Heidi Swedberg
Sunday, Nov. 2nd at 3 p.m.
2029 N. Lake Ave., Altadena 91001
Cost: $15  Limited seating; reservations recommended.


Survivor girl (1)


All photos courtesy of Survivor Girl Ukulele Band Project.

2 Responses for “Laurie Kallevig’s Survivor Girl Ukulele Project”

  1. […] project, follow this link!  The text and images below are lifted from an article which appears in Hometown Pasedena.  The WHOLE ARTICLE is worth a good read!  Check it […]

  2. Jay Dunning says:

    Well done, Laurie, We love what you are doing and can’t understand the cost it is to you in lost home life back in the USA. There is no doubt you are doing God’s will and we wish you all of His love to you
    and your ‘gals’.
    You are well and truly on our prayer list and we are sure that God will be keeping watch over you because, God sees! God hears! and God knows! everything!!!
    Bless you so much; we only wish we had enough money to come and see you and I would bring my uke which I have been playing since I was 12 and I am now 76, so I know a bit!
    Much, much Christian love to you and your ‘gals’ from,
    Jay and Di Dunning (Perth West’ Australia)



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