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  • Week 5 of project Noel de Nyundo

    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. 

  • 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



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