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In Figures…
April 2, 2014   Rwanda

Over the past couple of weeks we have compiled the interim report for Rwanda Youth Music.  Although sometimes it can seem hollow to present work with real people as statistics, it can also be revealing and important.

The programme in Rwanda is an active one and extremely practical in its design. We work with young people who are living with HIV 6 days a week, using music with care and intention.  Trained youth leaders have designed music programmes at 3 support centres; 1 trained music workshop leader is employed to work at our partner’s children’s clinic; outreach events happen twice a month; on-going training to enhance the youth leaders’  skills takes place every week; we ran introduction trainings for a new group of youth leaders; and we have employed Rwanda’s first music therapist to offer music therapy to vulnerable young people at our partner clinic. In practice this means that Musicians without Borders directly affected positive change for around 2000 HIV+ young people in Rwanda in the past year.

Breaking that down by project element from June 2013 until February 2014:

Outreach Programme – Music workshop events are facilitated by Music Workshop Leaders for children living with HIV through partner organisations and community organisations.

  • 17 Outreach events
  • 1110 HIV+ children have participated in outreach workshops
  • average of 140 HIV+ children every month participating in workshops
  • 14 Music Workshop Leaders have been employed by MwB to facilitate workshops
  • 2 Music Workshop Leaders have been trained in coordination, IT skills and reporting, and are now employed to coordinate the programme

Clinic Support Programme – Graduated youth leaders have established on-going music programmes at their clinic’s three youth support sites, incorporating drum circles; traditional dance; modern dance; musical games; instrumental tuition; singing; and song-writing. Our partner clinic’s regular support groups for young people living with HIV/AIDS are held at: SF, NR, and NC.  In December an additional two-week support event, called Winter Camp, was run by the clinic during the school vacation.

  1. SF
  • Since the end of October 2013, Music Workshop Leaders have run weekly music classes for children in guitar, drums, piano, traditional dance and modern dance.
  • 10 Peer Parents are running the programme
  • 12 sessions have so far taken place (on-going)
  • Between 35 and 50 children participate each week
  • The children and Peer Parents arrive an hour before regular support activities begin, voluntarily, to take part in the music programme
  1. NR
  • From February 2014, a twice monthly programme of drumming and traditional dance for older youth; and music activities and games for young children.
  • One former Peer Parent is employed by MwB to run a drum circle
  • One Music Workshop Leader teaches traditional Rwandan dancing, drumming and songs
  • One Music Workshop Leader acts as facilitator and mentor to new Peer Parents in running games and activities for young children
  • 150 children participate in the programme


  1. NC
  • Since January 2014, a weekly programme of group music therapy, and music activities
  • MwB music therapist provides group music therapy for teenage and adolescent patients
  • Music Workshop Leaders facilitate games, songs and structured activities for all attendees at the support group
  • 50 – 60 children participating each week
  1. Winter Camp
  • Musical activities were organised by the graduated youth leaders during the 2 weeks of support group activities
  • MwB’s music therapist ran 2 song-writing workshops using the John Lennon song “Imagine” as a template for creativity;
  • 6 Music Workshop Leaders facilitated the song-writing activities;
  • 30 young participants worked in 6 groups and wrote, performed and recorded their own songs;
  • A local artist organised painting activities in coordination with the music-making, and produced a painting inspired by the lyric “Imagine there’s no countries.”
Imagine there's no countries

Imagine there’s no countries

Music Therapy – In September 2013, MwB established the first professional music therapy post in Rwanda at our partner clinic for people living with HIV/AIDS. Clinical work has been developed to target three main referral criteria: young mothers; adolescents with low adherence to medication; young people with additional identified risk factors for their health.  Music therapy has been provided to:

  • On-going work with 5 groups
  • Short term work with 2 groups
  • 2 individual patients
  • 75 young people have benefitted from music therapy

During evaluation of the first three month period of music therapy provision in Rwanda, 100% of interviewed participants reported experiencing positive changes. The evaluation captured experiences of change attributed to music therapy both within and outside of sessions, with the largest proportion of comments relating to positive personal change.  Areas of positive personal change related to:

  • decreased feelings of isolation;
  • improved mood regulation;
  • acquirement of new coping strategies and resilience;
  • benefits from the opportunity to process difficult memories;
  • and an increased sense of personal value and future possibilities.

Music therapy was shown to address symptoms of stigma, trauma and depression that can have a hugely negative impact on the health of young patients.

Thank you for your support of this programme. We work hard every week to improve the lives of young Rwandans living with HIV,  and we work hard to maximise the impact of every donation we receive. We see the effects. Young people are feeling the effects.


In September 2012, Chris Nicholson set up a music therapy program for people living with HIV and AIDS at a clinic in urban central Rwanda. In September 2013, he returned to continue his therapy work with vulnerable HIV+ adolescents and to train staff in Music & Health. He is Project Manager of Rwanda Youth Music.  Prior to his involvement with music therapy, Chris had an international performance and teaching career as a classical guitarist. He studied classical guitar at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and in Spain with maestros Jose Tomas and Alex Garrobe.

Topics: Rwanda