Raffi Cavoukian has been awarded the prestigious “Friends of Children Award” from the Canadian Association for Young Children. Throughout his long career, he has made an outstanding contribution to the wellbeing of young children, first through his music that respectfully addressed significant issues and concerns and joys of young children without pandering or insulting their intelligence, and more recently through the initiation of his holistic philosophy of “Child Honouring”.
Raffi is an internationally revered musician whose string of gold and platinum-selling recordings in North America includes his classic “Baby Beluga” song with its beloved melody and lyrics. But a very interesting piece of Raffi’s story is not as well known: Raffi’s pioneering commitment to honouring his young fans changed the way we came to view music made for children. Founding his own record label, Troubadour, then folk musician Raffi set out on a path that rescued children’s recordings from bargain bin pricing and sub-par production values. He has steadfastly refused to capitalize on his popularity by marketing directly to children. Because of his belief that children should not be exposed to too much television viewing and that they should not be directly marketed to, during his thirty-year career as a superstar of kid’s music Raffi refused all offers for commercial television shows and commercial endorsements. Even recently, when approached by a Hollywood production company to do a film based on “Baby Beluga,” he declined when told that the film’s marketing would include direct advertising to children. This is only one of a series of lucrative deals Raffi and Troubadour have declined over the years.
In 1988, Raffi attended a presentation at the Ontario Science Centre, which outlined the alarming decline in the beluga whale population in the St. Lawrence River. “I was stunned,” writes Raffi in his autobiography. “The estimated 5,000 whales at the time of World War II were now down to 450... Autopsies of dead belugas washed ashore showed that the creatures had died painful deaths from cancer and other internal failures... their bodies were riddled with toxins and declared hazardous waste sites.”
This was a pivotal revelation and a calling to Raffi. He shifted focus dramatically and began attending ecology summits, advocating for ecology initiatives and writing and performing call-to-action ecology-themed music throughout the 90s into the new millennium. Raffi’s 1990 ecology album, Evergreen Everblue, has earned praise from the United Nations and is a valued resource in environmental education.
After his parents passed away within hours of each other in 1995, Raffi wrote an honest and thoughtful autobiography that explored both his own childhood and his reflections on what all children need in order to thrive.
In 1997, Raffi was inspired to develop a holistic philosophy called Child Honouring. The heart of this vision was expressed two years later in A Covenant or Honouring Children (Raffi’s poetic declaration of our duty to the young), along with its nine principles. The Covenant and Principles are now circulated widely in public health and education circles.
The philosophy is outlined in the book Child Honouring: How To Turn This World Around (edited by Raffi Cavoukian & Sharna Olfman, 2006). The principles are listed below. With a foreword by the Dalai Lama, this anthology is a groundbreaking work which provides the reader with an exciting, positive vision of how to “turn this world around, for the children”, as Nelson Mandela has said. The book has also been published in Portuguese in Brazil. A paperback edition was released in October, 2010.
To express Child Honouring themes musically, Raffi wrote and produced two CDs for adults: Resisto Dancing (2006) and Communion (2009). His anthemic songs “Turn This World Around” and “No Wall Too Tall” have found their way into the keynote presentations of progressive thinkers.
After years of networking and reflecting on what it might take to create a world fit for children, in 2010, Raffi founded the Centre for Child Honouring on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. The Centre advocates for an ecological worldview, a whole systems shift in the way we think and make decisions — decisions that affect our children’s world today and the world they will inherit. Raffi is outspoken in his call for a “compassion revolution” so the world’s children might receive the respect and support they deserve.
Raffi is a most worthy recipient of the Friends of Children award.