The last few weeks have flown by and have been filled with increasing excitement and enthusiasm for music therapy and how the staff can continue to use it with the children in their care.
Week 5 marked an important point in the project; we sat back and let the staff lead the music as therapy sessions with their respective clients. It’s safe to say that this was a big step, and somewhat emotional especially for some members of staff, who took to it so naturally and with ease. Staff used instruments creatively, sang local songs that they knew and adapted activities to make them fun and interactive for their clients. Some staff members weren’t quite so forthcoming with using their voice, but we think that will come with time.
We have been spending Thursday mornings at the Noel Orphanage working with the two nursery school teachers. Noel de Nyudno is located about 15 minutes away from Gisenyi town, so each Thursday morning we go in search of a couple of moto’s to take us there. After negotiating the price, we put the ill-fitting helmets on and set off along the winding road, holding on tightly. Initially, the teachers had classes of up to 50 children aged under 4 years, whereas now, there are as little as 15 children. The reintegration process has picked up speed and the Noel Orphange is likely to be closed before the New Year. This is clearly difficult for the teachers who are having to say goodbye regularly to children they have grown attached too. We hope that the teachers can use music therapy with the remaining children and take the skills they have gained into their next teaching jobs in the local community. Both teachers have many songs that they sing with the children that they have bought to the music as therapy sessions from the beginning. We have simply been sharing ideas and skills of how to use this in a slightly more structured way.
Each week at the Ubumwe Community Center we have been leading staff workshops where we try to share ideas and skills in a practical way; activities, group work, role-play and improvisation. We also allow time for discussing the weekly sessions and the theoretical concepts of Music Therapy. Steph has written a short account of her experience of one of these ‘theoretical’ sessions.
“There's an awkward silence; 5 pairs of eyes are fixed upon me and I have no words to offer. Well, I have words but they are in a different language and our translator has just left the room to answer her mobile.
It's one of our weekly staff training workshops and I'm in the middle of discussing how a client might feel if they were unable to communicate freely. The loss of our wonderful translator might have highlighted my point quite nicely but unfortunately I am far too exasperated, frustrated and flustered to notice the irony.
There has been some expectation that music will simply, "make everything ok". The reality, of course, is that music therapy is a process that evolves over time. Alllowing for expression, encouraging the exploration of feelings and facilitating a secure environment enables the development of healthy realtionships, self awareness, confidence, social interactions and communication.
There is also a tendency to want to neutralise the clients' emotions. If they are angry, make them calm; if they are sad, make them happy; if they are withdrawn, make them engaged. My personal stance is to allow for all expressions, positive and negative. This has been met with some hesitation; "Won't it just encourage the anger"? An excellent question asked by a teacher. Now, how do I answer?
Role plays are working quite well here. Staff are eager to participate and readily volunteer to impersonate clients' behaviourisms. So into pairs they were assigned, with one as the client and the other as the facilitator. Firstly I asked facilitators to match clients' expressions using a instrument of their choosing. And then, using only with their voice. I encouraged facilitators to encapsulate the mood and respond with equal force; be present, but do not overpower.
Afterwards, when our translator had returned, we discussed the experience of both 'clients' and 'facilitators' alike. The general consensus was that as a client there was a feeling of annoyance towards inadequate matching and by contrast, a feeling of being heard and understood for accurate matching. Accurate matching enabled further expression for clients who described feeling supported by their facilitator.
What we have experienced is a way of communicating non-verbally. Music and sounds become the translator between the language of the client and the language of the facilitator”.
We spent the weekend engaging in local cultural tourism. In the morning we visited some hot springs, a product of the nearby volcanoes, where local people bathed, boiled potatoes and used the liquid as medicine. In the afternoon we attended a wedding wearing our newly handmade and brightly coloured clothes. When guests were giving the bride and groom presents and offerings, someone encouraged Steph and i to take their baby and offer it to them as a symbol of good luck for their future family. Although we were reluctant at first, we took the initially calm baby to the front, however when we handed the baby over it didn’t remain so calm….what a way to wish the bride good luck!
As we embark upon the final week of the project, we have an array of mixed emotions. We are excited to let the staff lead sessions without us, we are anxious as to whether they will continue to run sessions after we leave and we are, of course, sad that we have to leave a place with people we have become very familiar with in the last 5 weeks.