In Ethiopia in 2018 we delivered on-site training to caregivers working in three settings in or near the country’s capital, Addis Ababa. It was a project of firsts: the first time we had worked in the country, the first project for Advisory Panel members Hannah Berhanu and Lily Blows-Paliwoda, the first time we had worked across three such distinct and separate beneficiary groups at the same time.

The host settings were also ground-breaking in their own right. In addition to the Ethiopian National Association on Intellectual Disability (a centre for children and adults with learning disabilities), Gefersa Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre is the only centre offering professional psychiatric treatment, boarding and rehabilitative occupational therapy in Ethiopia, while Hospice Ethiopia is the first and only care setting of its kind in the country, providing comprehensive, affordable and culturally appropriate palliative and end of care life.

Over the six-week duration of the project, our volunteer team was constantly blown away by the compassion and understanding of the caregivers they worked with. Through music, these caregivers were able to showcase their strengths, commitment and courage to embed music in care. Some even made their own instruments out of pots and food to be used as shakers in music sessions.

We came away feeling overwhelmed with the progress that the staff we trained made… The enthusiasm and commitment as a response to the project was more than we could have asked for.

Lily Blows-Paliwoda, Project assistant

Music’s power to reveal potential was observed in the patients and residents taking part in music sessions, too. One patient at the hospice who used a stick to walk and had very limited mobility asked if the music could carry on as she wanted to dance. The nurses at the hospice were both shocked and amazed by her beautiful movements they didn’t think possible. It was as though the music gave them all a glimpse into a life unburdened. 

Music is our medicine. When I am playing music I have no pain, I am not sick.

Music participant

With the foundations laid for interactive music-making to be embedded in the care provided by 20 members of staff across the three settings, opportunities were created for almost 700 vulnerable children and adults to access music as part of their care.