Over the past 10 months we have been working with the Evangelical Lutheran Schools to support and train some of their teachers and social counsellors to run music sessions in 3 of their schools in the towns of Beit Sahour, Bethlehem and Ramallah in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The project started with an opportunity for ELS Social Worker, Samar Andoni (who has been running music sessions for 6 years) to share her considerable experience and beautiful work with Rawand, Randa, Mariana and Riham. We then invited these staff to reflect on what they learned from Samar and how they hoped music might complement their wider work in the three schools. In March, Music Therapists Liz Coombes and Hazel Child, with the invaluable help of Samar, spent two days working with the staff to develop their skills and confidence to start using music themselves. It was then the turn of the participating staff to set up and run their own music sessions over a two month period. Each week they documented their work in detail and, following careful translation by Samar, we were able to follow their progress from a distance. There were opportunities for the staff to seek supervision from our music therapists, to ask questions about the inevitable challenges this work brings.
Observations such as, “The students broke the barrier of fear from playing. They made sounds more confidently and better than before. Now they greatly enjoy using their sounds while playing.” and “[The students] carry inside them sadness and angry feelings. Through our activities they overcame this during our sessions.” reminded us how important music and the support of skilled staff can be for children and what a valuable resource the music programme will be for students at all 3 schools in the future.
The project will concluded with Rawand, Randa, Mariana and Riham reflecting on their experiences and everyone involved receiving a certificate to recognise their learning. It is fantastic to see staff equipped to run music sessions across all three schools once more and we will be interested to hear how this is going later in the academic year.
Dr. Charlie Haddid (ELCJHL Director of Education) wrote, "Under the prevailing socio-economic conditions as a consequence of the occupation, the Music Therapy program is not a luxury program but a very essential and needed one, which among other programs and activities in our schools, helps children ventilate and freely express their emotions and feelings in a nurturing school environment. One of several important outcomes of the program is a significant decrease in the level of violent behaviour usually observed in children involved in this program. Without the guidance and constant support offered by Alexia, Liz and Hazel and the diligence of our local staff involved in the program or in follwing up on it (Samar, Salameh, Rawand, Randa, Mariana and Riham, and Principals Georgette, Tony and Naseef), this program would never have succeeded the way it did. We will everything we can to make sure that this work will continue to develop and improve as we go along."
Our thanks to Dr. Charlie Haddad, Salameh Bishara, Georgette Rabadi, Tony Nassar and Naseef Muallem for their commitment to making music available to their students, and to Samar Andoni, Liz Coombes, Alexia Quin and Hazel Child for drawing on their combined music therapy experience to lead this project for us.