BEHIND THE SCENES with producer Steve McNally

What do you hope "The Mender of Lost Hearts" will accomplish with your listeners?

The Dispatches touchstone is that we want our listeners to feel like they've been taken somewhere and been given some insight into the lives of other people. My hope for Samite's story was that it would help people see victims somewhat differently. There is less and less shock value in the terms "child soldier" and "sex slave" and my hope was that people listening would not see them as simple victims, but people with beauty, with talent, and and with the remarkably reasonable dream for a normal life.

What do you think it is about music that provides such an important emotional release for the youth that Samite works with? I think singing can be like crying. Songs can allow people to visit their pain, to nurse it, to work it through. We hear it in these songs as the young people express their longing for peace. Here the singing becomes a shared experience. And I think the process provided them affirmation of the legitimacy of their sentiments, and the assurance that they are shared with others. It's a unique form of therapy that I came to understand when Samite told us "These are not songs handed down from generation to generation . . . they are songs these people sing to themselves to make themselves feel better." Have you done much reporting in conflict areas? Do you consider yourself more of a feature maker or hard news reporter? In terms of total years on the job, it's been news reporting. But over the last number of years I've gone from doing the occasional feature to having them at the center of my work life at the CBC. Time spent in Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as in Russia has had a marked impact on my work. I can't help but think the experience of spending time with people whose lives are in turmoil heightens your sense of empathy and causes you to look for it in the stories you work on. Do you struggle with how to convey human stories in war-torn places, when the people you report on are living in such bleak circumstances? How do you strike a balance between sharing the real and terrible difficulties in their lives and conveying a sense of hope/humanity? The "struggle," such as it is, is in getting to the heart of a story. And of course, that struggle is mainly the reporter's. We all want to convey the complexity of a story without getting buried by the detail. So we look for those few telling details that give us insight into the pain of people, but also point to the strength of their spirits. As tough as life is for a lot of the people we talk to, they reveal these positive sides themselves with remarkable consistency. Not every story can accomplish all these things. So, at times, we simply have to say that on this day, from this place, we'll provide this bit of shading

BEHIND THE SCENES with Samite Mulondo Could you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you come to do this kind of work with young people? On a trip I took to return to Africa after being away for a long time, we decided to visit places that were reported negatively in the western media -- stories that would make people lose hope in Africa. So I visited Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Rwanda (soon after the genocide), and Uganda. The purpose of the trip was to see if there was hope left amidst all this suffering. I found there was plenty of hope. I found that when I played the flute, children wanted to come and talk to me, and then they wanted to sing with me. What followed was magic -- the elders in the village or refugee camp would come and join in as well. Three hours later we were still sharing songs. I noticed that when we sang, life would come into their eyes. That is when I knew that this is what I had to do. Is music the mender of hearts in "Mender of Lost Hearts" or does performance play a role, too? Do you think it's important for the kids to have a stage/platform to talk about their lives? Music mends hearts at a deeper level. This is why I think it mends the soul. Music can make it safe for them to feel comfortable talking about their pain because it brings hope. There is hope when they hear music. What's it like to work with a reporter on a story about the work that you do? Does it change the way you think about your work? It makes me focus on things that I would normally not have thought were appropriate to share with the public -- some details that I sometimes avoid such as the crimes committed by child soldiers or the particular sufferings of victims of sexual abuse.