All posts, Co-op & work experience stories, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, Students, Taught postgraduates

Global Community Engagement Through Online Skill Sharing and Music Therapy Education

In 2019, I joined an amazing interdisciplinary group of academics at UL who have built a relationship with the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, and The Padre Pio Rehabilitation Centre at Ahotokurom, nr Elmina in the Central Region in Ghana. This group are working with partners in Ghana to improve the health and well-being of people in the community who are unable to access healthcare due to poverty, disadvantage, and lack of education. I joined a group of extremely talented and skilled health practitioners, clinicians, teachers, and researchers, including staff from GEMS, nursing and midwifery, clinical therapies, business, and the humanities. 

I was particularly drawn to the work of the Padre Pio Rehabilitation Centre, led by Mark Mantey, a UL alumni who came from Ghana to study in Limerick in 2001. The centre was originally established in the early 1980s to support the families of leprosy sufferers. Over the years as the prevalence of leprosy diminished in Ghana due to the establishment of a multi-drug therapy to successfully combat this disease, the remit of the centre was expanded to meet the needs of other disadvantaged groups in the community. This now includes children and young adults with physical and intellectual disabilities and a family support centre for struggling families. ( https://www.padrepio-rehab.com/work

In joining the group, I quickly learned that music and dance were used extensively to support the children and the staff at the centre were really keen to learn more about music therapy. A new collaboration was born. 

Students from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance have visited and lived at the centre as part of their co-op placements for a number of years. We wanted to build on this, by sharing music therapy skills and working with the expertise already evidenced at the centre to offer professional development to staff and some music therapy to children at the centre. We started consulting with the centre and the music department at The University of Cape Coast (UCC) to recruit a Ghanaian student to train as a music therapist at UL (our new blended MA music therapy will make this possible in September 2021). Dr Florian Carl at UCC is enthusiastic about working with us to achieve this goal. 

UL student Timmy Dunne playing music with the children at the Padre Pio Rehabilitation Centre in Ghana as part of his Coop placement

Two PhD students from the music therapy department were due to travel to Ghana in March 2020, but due to Covid 19 they were unable to go. Over the months that followed, my conscience pricked me several times. We had planned so much for that visit and I was aware that we were offering no support or skill sharing, vainly hoping that we might be able to reschedule the visit. 

So, my colleague Lisa Kelly and I developed an online training tool for staff at the centre. We consulted with the manager and staff, including experts Grace Amaguando and Charles, about what they wanted and what would be most helpful and identified that music therapy skills for working with children who have extremely limited movement, and no verbal communication would be of most use. Lisa, a PhD student, and recent graduate of the MA music therapy, set to work creating a film which demonstrated key music therapy techniques whilst also giving an overview of music therapy training should someone from the team in Ghana be interested in qualifying as a music therapist. The 30-minute film gives practical techniques, role-play examples and builds on the music that children and staff know and use in their daily work at the centre. 

This morning we received a message from the staff at the centre. “The team watched the Ghana video together this morning. We agreed that the video is very clear and professional. It is a very good video. We also agreed that it is a tool to be used and used again. This is going to help us to improve upon the care and services we provide children and young adults with special needs.”

We are delighted that our online initiative has been of some help to this community, who face enormous challenges in service provision and funding resources. This is but one aspect of a fantastic collaboration between UL, UCC and local communities in the Central region of Ghana. We hope it will be the start of a strong link between the MA music therapy program at UL and the children and staff of the Padre Pio rehabilitation centre and will continue to work closely with our more experienced colleagues in Nursing and Midwifery and Medicine who have visited multiple times. We are especially hopeful that we can welcome an MA student to UL next year through our new blended learning MA programme, the first MA Music Therapy in Europe to be offered in this format. We also cannot wait to visit our colleagues in Ghana as soon as the pandemic allows! For more information on this project please contact hilary.moss@ul.ie 

Hilary Moss, 

Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, 

Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, 

University of Limerick. 

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