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  • Music what?

    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.  

    Steph x

  • Week 3 and the skill-sharing is well under way....

    On Thursday, we went to the Noel de Nyundo orphanage, where we had arranged to meet the 4 staff members from Hope and Homes for children and the clients they had chosen to work with. We did an introductory group session at Noel but decided it was appropriate to work with the clients as two individual sessions and one group of two for the following weeks.

    An unexpected public holiday on Friday meant that we were unable to work with any of the staff or clients, as we had planned. Stephanie and I did use this time as an opportunity to start thinking about the following week and in more detail about what to include in the practical and theoretical staff workshops.

    This week at the Ubumwe Community Center (UCC) we aimed to try and make the staff more involved in the sessions rather just watching. This worked really well. Steph led the session but the staff member was able to respond to the clients and be part of the ‘group’ experience.


    We also invited all the staff to come along to a ‘practical’ workshop. The theme of the workshop was to encourage the staff to write their own ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’ song or an activity that can be used to open and close a music session. I adapted a song the night before to use an example. I used the tune to  ‘this little light of mine’ but changed the words to Kinyarwandan. I shyly taught this song to the whole group and they were soon singing along and correcting my questionable pronunciation of the words. We then divided the group into two teams and asked them to give it a go, Steph worked with one group and myself with the other. Initially, they were shy and not very forthcoming with ideas, just talking quietly amongst themselves. But once they had an idea, within 5 minutes they were stood up, clapping, singing and dancing along to the song they had chosen. Also, a little healthy competition is always useful to get ideas flowing. Each team then sang their hello and goodbye song to the whole group. Everyone left the session in high sprits, including Steph and I. We hope they remember the songs for their sessions next week!

    When communication is a barrier, it is difficult to know what the staff and teachers are thinking. We tend to try and read their facial expressions and take as much as we can from how they say ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’. It’s therefore encouraging when the staff are able to give us their feedback (through our life saving translator, Gentille). Today, one staff member, who cares for the children at the Noel Orphanage said “You are inspiring and motivating us to use different activities and songs with the children, thank you”. 

    Until next time.....

    Hannah and Steph x

    Also, the internet is cooperating with me this evening so i've included a few extra photos below.


  • Team Rwanda update from Wednesday

    Steph and I are really settling into local life now, we are on first name basis with all the staff at our accommodation, we say hello to the people at the local shops and we have made friends with the women at the market (i had them all singing 'waka waka' by Shakira yesterday!). We spent the weekend exploring Gisenyi, which is nestled amongst the hills and alongside lake Kivu. The lake is so vast that you could easily confuse it for being the sea, especially as there is a sandy beach to walk along.

    We have just completed day three of the second week. During this week we started to implement our carefully planned timetable. From Monday to Wednesday we are working with some of the staff and teachers at the Ubumwe Community Center. Unfortunately we can’t work with all the staff at the Centre, even though the interest is there. We’re working with six staff members from UCC and two teachers from the nursery school that is located behind UCC. We hope that perhaps after we have left these staff members can pass on what they have learnt to other staff. Of course, we should have known that our timetable would not go completely to plan…..

    The first week of the training has been purely based on the staff observing Stephanie and sometimes myself running sessions with the various clients that they have selected to work with, either on an individual basis or as part of a group. This has, thus far, made for some interesting and unexpected sessions…. let’s just say, some of the instruments have not survived to tell the tale, Stephanie on the other hand remains strong and unshaken by these encounters.

    Although there are some lovely staff members at UCC helping Steph and I with translation, the language barrier is proving to be somewhat problematic at times and it can be difficult to explain what is going on to the slightly confused looking staff. We are, however, working our way through these hiccups as we come across them and hoping we get them all out of the way this week….Luckily the management at UCC are on our side and they are making sure we have everything we need as far as possible. This support and enthusiasm for the work that we’re doing is invaluable!

    We weren’t expecting the wet season until September, but the last few evenings there have been huge thunderstorms….perhaps it has come early!

    I had chosen some lovely photos to upload with this blog, but the internet obviously doesn't agree!

    More soon,

    Hannah and Steph x



  • Project Noel de Nyundo: Update from Steph

    Muraho from Rwanda! 

    This will be my first ever blog, I'm not sure of the exact requirements so please forgive me if I end up rambling on...

    Gisenyi is a fairly small yet hectic city. Full of people going about their daily business; women carrying huge baskets of fruit and vegetables on their heads,men driving erratically on motos and children playing on the streets.  The majority of roads are dirt tracks which makes for some interesting if not rather hairy experiences in getting to and from our new work places.  I'm slowly getting used to being on the back of a questionably serviced motorbike whilst wearing an ill fitting helmet which practically spins 360 degrees as we go over every boulder in the road. The locals travel with ease, often carrying large suitcases, I however have resorted to clinging on for dear life, spooning the poor driver like my life depends on it.

    Nicky, Hannah and I have spent the first week meeting staff at the two centres, observing the children and adults in their environments, facilitating workshops for teachers, social workers and psychologists and dividing a timetable for the remaining 5 weeks of this project.

    The workshops were an enlightening experience.  The objective was so introduce ourselves, give a simple introduction to the benefits of using music with clients with learning disabilities and also see if any staff members were interested in learning more. The response was both encouraging and slightly overwhelming.  Staff had many questions and discussions flowed with ease.  We interspersed the talking with some musical activities which helped demonstrate the many qualities that music can offer.  Sharing an experience and creating a sound as a group really highlighted the concept of team work, play, unity and togetherness. Staff were eager to understand more and asked for clinical examples, suggesting role play with clients they currently work with.  It's not often you have a teacher biting your arm and hitting you on the head with a maraca but I am hopeful my responses were of some use...

    Today Hannah and I start our journey without Nicky as she returns to Kigali (capital city) for meetings and planning for more upcoming and exciting things.

    We felt sad saying goodbye but are confident that we have the strength and enthusiasm this 2014 Rwandan project requires and deserves. 

    Steph x

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