In Rwanda today disability still often brings shame and stigma. It is common for families to be ostracised by the community or even abused. 57% of the population are living below the poverty line and medical care is limited especially in remote rural areas. With thousands of children and young adults across Rwanda either living in institutional care or accessing day centres there is an extraordinary need to equip care staff with the skills that will allow them to address their needs.

Since 2011 the Rwandan government has, in partnership with Hope and Homes for Children, been developing a national family based care system for orphaned and vulnerable children. They aim to close down all 33 existing orphanages.

Activities and Impact to date

In 2010 we delivered training in two residential centres for children and young adults with disabilities in the Rusizi district. We trained local staff to introduce therapeutic music programmes into both centres and we have supported them ever since as they have required moral support, professional guidance and additional training. These staff members are now confident in their work and have become trainers in order to share their skills with others locally through an exchange project piloted in 2015.

In 2014 we took a second introductory training project to local care staff, teachers and social workers working at the Noel de Nyundo Orphanage and the Ubumwe Community Centre in Gisenyi, near Rwanda’s border with the Congo, with further training and support offered in 2015. There is now a house for therapy and rehabilitation, with a room dedicated to music therapy and used by our Local Partners.

To date our projects in Rwanda have seen 33 staff skilled and equipped to run music sessions themselves in 10 care settings. 70 children and adults participated in music sessions during the projects themselves and 1,235 children and adults could subsequently benefit as the local staff develop their music programmes. A further 57 staff from 32 centres for disability across Rwanda attended a National Conference in 2015. The conference gave them a theoretical and practical introduction to how Music as Therapy could be used in their centres.

Current Activities

In June-July 2016, music therapist Una McInerney and Isabel Bedford, a trainee music therapist and community musician, travelled to Rwanda to evaluate the success of the Tubakunde exchange training programme delivered last October folllowing the interest received at the national conference. They visited 6 centres during their trip to see if they had managed to successfully establish their own music as therapy programmes, to offer support, and to identify any key areas for further development. They also visited Local Partners in Cyangugu who implented the training programme to find out whether they would be interested and able to offer the training again to allow more centres in the Tubakunde network to benefit. 18 staff members benefited from Una and Isabel's visit and 113 children took part in music sessions they observed at the centres. To find out more about Una and Isabel's trip click here to read their report. In 2017 we will continue to work with the Tubakunde Network, Rwanda Aid and our local trainers to develop the exchange programmes and offer further support and training for the centres that have already got music programmes up and running.

During their trip Una and Isabel also conducted a feasibility study at a Hope and Homes for Children community hub in Kigali which serves to support children who have been living in institutional care and have recently been rehomed. Cerrita Smith and Samanth Zeiher have since delivered this project and you can read about their experiences here.

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