Thrive Refuge – Bringing joy through music to those in need

Music has the unique ability to bring communities together, elevate and empower the human spirit and help people overcome traumatic events in their lives. This is the philosophy that inspired the creation of Thrive Refuge, a charity organization dedicated to providing access to musical education for refugees arriving in Canada.

Founded by Ray Zhang and Isabelle Wang, two high school students and musicians from Vancouver, Thrive Refuge is a beacon of hope for those in need of comfort and a chance to thrive.

The mission of Thrive Refuge

Ray Zhang, Founder of Thrive Refuge. | Photo courtesy of Thrive Refuge

Thrive Refuge was originally created with the intention of sharing Zhang’s passion for music with refugees who had lost access to it, however, after delving deeper into the cause, Thrive Refuges’ focus turned to helping individual musicians continue their work in safety.

According to a 2021 census run by the Canadian government, between 2016 and 2021, 218,430 new refugees were admitted as permanent residents into Canada. Forced to leave their homes because of severe instability within their own countries, these refugees came to Canada. Zhang believes that although generous aid is provided to those newly arrived, such as food and shelter, what truly helps heighten the quality of their new lives can often be missed.

“The things that bring us the most comfort and joy in life such as art and music are often overlooked,” Zhang shares.

Thrive Refuge’s mission is to provide refugees with access to musical education, allowing them to thrive and not just survive in their new homes.

“Music has the ability to strengthen and uplift the human spirit. It is an integral part of life that should not be disregarded but cherished and nourished,” Zhang explains.

This feeling of comfort is especially important to refugees who often have experienced traumatic events. One in three refugees experience high rates of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) according to the American Psychiatric Association. Music can be used as a tool to aid alleviate such issues. Music has the incredibly unique ability to bring solace to those who cannot find it elsewhere.

“In October, I met with a gentleman who fled from Afghanistan. He stated that even though all Afghanistan has been through, he still truly misses his home. He said that music brought him back to his home and gave him a sense of comfort that couldn’t be found anywhere else,” says Zhang.

Getting Thrive Refuge off the ground

Isabelle Wang, Creative Director of Thrive Refuge. | Photo courtesy of Thrive Refuge

Thrive Refuges’ goal for this year is to raise $50,000 dollars for the Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC), all of which will go towards a perpetual bursary program. The organization has already made a significant impact through its initiatives, including aiding in providing a scholarship for Oleksandr (Sasha) Luchkovat at Shawnigan Lake School in Vancouver Island.

Luchkovat, a gifted Ukrainian pianist, was at risk of being drafted into military combat. The scholarship has allowed him to come to Canada, continue his musical education, and contribute to the community. Luchkovat recently performed a concert in the Shawnigan Lake School chapel.

Thrive Refuge has also run a series of fundraising concert series. Beginning on October 8, 2022, $12,000 was raised from the event launching the musical education bursary program for refugees and supporting Thrive Refuge’s projects. The organization has also received the attention and aid of several public figures, such as entertainer Aylex Tunder and social media personality Ricky Zhang.

“Sasha’s Impact Scholarship at Shawnigan Lake School received funding from Ricky Zhang, also known as the Prince of Travel, who sponsored Sasha’s plane ticket from Ukraine to Vancouver,” Wang explains.

Thrive Refuge is an organization that brings hope and comfort to refugees through music. It is a shining example of the power of community and the importance of providing access to education and the arts.

“The most important aspect of Thrive Refuge would be the message we want to put out. Everyone deserves to pursue what they enjoy doing in life – refugees are not an exception. Thus, Thrive Refuge seeks to provide the vulnerable with the opportunity and platform to do so,” Ray Zhang says.

To read more about Thrive Refuge, visit

To donate to Thrive Refuges’ bursary program, visit