Umoja Community Music Therapy
Our Mission and Vision for Partnership with SHOFCO
Who we are.
Umoja Community Music Therapy is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable Music Therapy practices in underserved communities through the empowerment and training of women. With a focus on female leadership, Umoja partners with community organizations to train women as community Music Therapists, who will go on to pioneer, implement and sustain Music Therapy services as a means to unite, heal, and serve their communities.
What is Music Therapy?
Music Therapy is the specialized application of supportive music intervention to address therapeutic, and global health outcomes across virtually all domains of functioning; including social, communication, emotional, physical, cognitive, sensory and spiritual needs. Music Therapists develop individualized treatment for people of all ability levels throughout the lifespan and work in a variety of health and community settings as members of an interdisciplinary team.
Within the global setting, Umoja promotes Music Therapy as an evidence-based, accessible, and cost-effective modality for individualized and group therapy, which highlights community and culture-centered approaches. Research by Stige (2016) supports culture-centered Music Therapy as a practice that highlights how humans develop their capacities through participation in society, where culture operates as a resource for action. We believe this paradigm is in alignment with SHOFCO’s mission to empower unified action. Within our partnership with the SHOFCO Women’s Empowerment Project (SWEP), we will champion music, and the Music Therapy profession as a cohesive, culturally rich and powerful tool for social change.
Our organization operates as a collective of four women who work as healthcare professionals in the United States within medical, education, and community settings. Practicing as Music Therapists, our expertise is informed by education and training in the areas of music and theory, psychology, psychotherapy, human development, group dynamics, research, clinical implementation and neuroscience with implications for rehabilitation and wellness. Throughout the past five years, Umoja has traveled throughout East Africa to provide educational in-services and sample sessions to all who are interested in learning how to implement Music Therapy services and develop programs within their communities.
Across the world, women play a vital role in the societal and familial structure of their communities. According to the World Health Organization, one in three women worldwide are victims of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Within vulnerable communities, women and girls face issues such as gender bias, limited resources, and oppression stemming from prevailing cultural and societal norms surrounding the status of women. In many cases, these issues are compounded by a lack of financial security. Umoja believes in “the girl effect,” or the notion that when a girl has self-belief and is supported by her family and community, when she is empowered with skills, ideas, and knowledge, when she has access to services, role models, and other girls, when she is visible and vocal – she can demand to stay in school, to get health care, and to get married and have children when she chooses.” Through participating in therapy groups and training programs, we hope to provide others with a platform for agency and control, and to inspire community leaders to take the reigns and innovate, in order to design services from the lens of the needs of the community and to utilize Music Therapy as a healing and transformative tool for empowerment.
Plans for SHOFCO:
Cara Smith will be integrating Community Music Therapy training program with the marvelous leaders of SHOFCO while partnering with community advocacy programs, and education and leadership development efforts for women and girls. We will be designing music therapy programs for SHOFCO’s Women’s Empowerment Project (SWEP) and working with the leaders of this program as well as their women’s safety shelter in Kibera, and the Gender-Based Violence education staff.
We accomplish this by connecting local women musicians, teachers, and caregivers or enrolling community leaders interested in becoming community music therapists into our Trauma-Informed Music Therapy Training program. These individuals will participate in an ongoing training and collaboration project with the Umoja team to create the right service for the women and girls who need it and the leaders who implement it. The end goal is to help create sustainable music therapy services for the powerful survivors of violence and trauma and empower women to hone this new found skill in bringing healing and wellness to their community.
Umoja will also be working closely with music teachers at several of SHOFCO’s schools for girls in Nairobi’s slum communities – pioneering music therapy programs that provide a platform for creative emotional expression and empowerment opportunities for teachers and students to utilize music as an engine for community strength, cohesion, and leadership.
This October two executive members of Umoja will be visiting different SHOFCO sites within Nairobi to begin the collaboration process, build relationships, conduct workshops, training and demonstrate music therapy interventions for the girls and women SHOFCO serves. We hope to not only introduce an effective therapy for survivors of trauma but provide a platform for learning and empowerment for those who wish to learn this skill and provide this service.
We thank SHOFCO for their commitment to building long-term female leadership and are beyond humbled to embark in collaboration
Stige, B.(2016-01-21). Culture-Centered Music Therapy. In the Oxford Handbook of Music
Therapy. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 6 July. 2018, from http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/978199639755.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199639755-e-1.
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