Some midway thoughts from Stephanie Jayne about Project Noel de Nyundo.....
My current role is as a lead music therapist on the skill sharing project here in Gisenyi, Rwanda. I am not teaching music therapy to my new colleagues, but rather the key principles of how music can be used as a medium for nonverbal communication. I'm encouraging teachers, carers, social workers and psychologists to listen to their clients in a different way to what they are perhaps used too. To notice every movement, whether it be a twitch of the hand or shuffling of the feet; to hear every sound, from the pace of breathing to the slightest vocalisation; to observe every aspect of body language and to respect as an example of communication; to be aware of the atmosphere or mood within the room and to respond appropriately.
We are half way through this six-week project which has so far been daunting, encouraging, promising and inspiring. Daunting because music is already used within the every day life here at the centre where we are working. Teachers sing songs to aid students' learning process in school and out of school there is a strong tradition and participation of gospel music within local churches. Music is also integral to traditional African culture, with songs being sung for every occasion. So it has felt like a daunting prospect of wondering what we have and can offer? Where we will fit in to this society? and even if we are actually needed?
However our presence has only been met with the most caring, supportive and positive attitudes. Staff have been eager to participate in workshops, both practical and theoretical. They actively engage in discussions and have been more than happy to explore role-playing and any seemingly odd activity I have conceived on the spot, from dancing around the room to shaker-egg football. And so I feel encouraged. Encouraged that we do have something to share, encouraged that there is a willingness to participate and a desire to explore and expand on a different way of thinking.
This week marked the first time for many of the staff to lead part of a music session. Any newly qualified music therapist will tell you what an intimidating prospect this can be, and that's after 2-3 years of study. Yes, I'll reiterate that we are not training music therapists but still, to freely sing and play to a client who may be barely responsive or perhaps the complete opposite, displaying signs of anger and rage, is a huge task. However, the staff of UCC have taken our ideas and sprinted! Music here, is so close to the surface it hasn't taken much to encourage expression using this medium. Staff are singing, dancing, playing, conceiving activities and respecting clients' responses. They are experimenting with different ways of playing the instruments, different ways of encouraging physical movement and different ways of producing sound. The staff care for their clients, they recognise a need for exploring an alternative method of communication and interaction. Feedback from staff has been promising. And for me? I am inspired.