Today, Alive Medical Services said goodbye to two important members of our team: Isabel Bedford and Ella Polczyk-Przybyla, music therapy trainees from the University of the West of England (UWE). During their three months at AMS, Isabel and Ella engaged 711 individuals in music therapy activities by holding targeted sessions five days a week.
“People really responded to the program, and to an opportunity to be part of something that is creative,” Isabel said. “It’s another facet of AMS’ holistic care, because clients can engage in musical activities while receiving their medication.”
Though AMS and Musicians Without Borders engaged 30 youth in a community music project last year, AMS did not have a daily music therapy program prior to Isabel and Ella’s arrival.
The trainees provided multiple music therapy groups for clients, including open adult groups, mother-and-baby groups, open community groups, open children/youth groups, closed adult groups, and individual sessions.
“When you come to the doctor, you’re told what to do,” Ella said. “That’s important. But when clients come to a music session, they get their agency back. They have the opportunity to play, sing, and dance, and whatever they do, it will be exactly right.”
Adult open sessions aimed to promote group bonding and social cohesion, provide an opportunity for emotional release, and enable self-expression. Similar goals were set for the open community groups and children/youth groups, while also alleviating boredom, encouraging playtime, and counteracting the medical environment of the clinic.
The mother-and-baby groups provided an opportunity for mothers and babies to spend time together, and encouraged bonding, interaction, sensory stimulation for babies, and stress reduction, among other objectives. The closed groups offered opportunities for regular music-making, song creation, and bonding among a group of consistent participants.
“I’m feeling very happy, and hoping at least now, I can feel the world,” one client said after participating in a music therapy session.
The impact of music therapy has been well-documented. Many studies have shown music therapy can be a therapeutic tool for vulnerable populations, and Isabel and Ella’s work illustrated similar findings. Through quantitative feedback surveys, the trainees found elevated levels of relaxation, confidence, and optimism after participants engaged in music sessions. They also found improved perceptions of connection to others and respect from their peers.
Isabel and Ella also held weekly sessions for staff to increase bonds and collaboration between staff, promote relaxation, and encourage self-expression and creativity. In addition, they trained staff members and select youth to use music for communicating and building relationships with clients. These trainings facilitate the program’s sustainability at AMS.
Today, the trainees return to the United Kingdom to finish their degrees in music therapy. Because of the program’s success, AMS will remain a music therapy placement site for the University of the West of England. We hope to take on new trainees later this year.
“This session made my week begin with peace,” one staff member said after participating in the staff group. “I feel like it will stay with me forever.”
Leading up to the International Day of Women and Girls in Science (February 11), Alive Medical Services is recognizing one of our own: Saudah Asiimwe Kiganda, head of the laboratory. Saudah has been at Alive since 2008, joining the team at the clinic’s beginnings. Today, she manages nine other laboratory professionals and oversees over 5,100 laboratory tests every month.
“In the lab, we uncover the root causes of why someone is sick, and give doctors the information they need to help the clients get better,” Saudah said.
Around the world, women are highly underrepresented in the field of science. The probability of female students graduating with a master’s degree in a science-related field is just 8% – compared to the probability of male students, which is more than double the female ratio.
“If women are given a chance, they can achieve scientific breakthroughs,” Saudah said. “When a woman puts effort into something, she goes all the way.”
When Saudah was just 17, she was recognized as the best in biology throughout the entire region of Western Uganda. Though Saudah was first interested in marine biology, she gradually became more interested in working with people – and investigating the reasons behind illness in evidence-based ways.
She left her hometown of Kabale to start her diploma in biological sciences after finishing secondary school. Soon after, she began her degree in medical laboratory science at Makerere University, and gained laboratory experience working at three clinics in Kampala.
In 2008, Saudah joined Alive’s three-person laboratory team. Since then, she’s watched the team triple in size as the clinic’s client-base has expanded: in 11 years, AMS has gone from having six clients to over 13,500. Since joining the laboratory, Saudah has spearheaded a number of improvements throughout the years, including but not limited to contributing to increasing the variety of tests provided, improving laboratory safety, and increasing the number of certificates the team has received.
“Seeing the progress our team has made pushes me to achieve more,” Saudah said. “It’s exciting to keep improving.”
Happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science to all our female colleagues, friends, family, and supporters!
On Saturday, January 20, approximately 100 clients came together for a peer-to-peer adherence counselling workshop at Alive Medical Services.
The event provided a platform for HIV positive clients to come together, discuss adherence and viral load suppression, and link to existing psychosocial and income-generating groups at AMS. Many participants signed up for AMS’ Peer Network Group, all of whom will be encouraged to meet quarterly to engage with one another, socialize, and provide peer support.
AMS will synchronize participants’ appointment dates, helping to facilitate Peer Network Group meetings and reduce travel costs for clients. In addition, AMS is creating focus groups focused on psychosocial, economic, and developmental growth, allowing clients to discuss more specific topics with their peers in the future.
“The event created a safe space for clients to connect and network,” said Beatrice Mujuni, a member of the workshop coordination team. “It was a great turnout.”
Throughout the day, clients were given space to introduce themselves, interact with one another, and participate in a number of different activities, including a group music therapy session. They also engaged in focus group discussions on adherence and viral load suppression.
Highlights of the event included a speech from Dr. Stephen Watiti, a renowned doctor and HIV/AIDS activist, and a performance by the Canaan Gents, a Kampala-based acapella group. Dr. Watiti spoke to clients about his own experiences fighting not only HIV, but cancer, tuberculosis, and meningitis.
As the first doctor in Uganda to go public about his HIV status, Dr. Watiti was able to deeply connect with the clients; he even gave out his phone number to the group, encouraging clients to reach out to him with health concerns.
The event culminated in voluntary medical consultations for interested clients.
Donate to Alive Medical Services by tomorrow, December 31, before 3:59 p.m. Uganda time (and 11:59 p.m. EST) to increase your impact for women and children affected by HIV.
To finish off 2017 in the most impactful way possible, Alive Medical Serves launched an end of year fundraising campaign at the end of November, Stop the Cycle of HIV: Support Women and Children. Our online fundraising partner, GlobalGiving, has provided so many different opportunities for our supports’ donations to be amplified through the holiday season.*
We’re so close to reaching our goal – but we’re not there yet! We still need your help to support all the infants, children, youth, women, mothers, and grandmothers currently in our care.
Thank you so much for your support this holiday season. Our work would never be possible without your generosity and compassion!
* all donations made on our GlobalGiving project page are tax deductible for U.S. donors. And, U.K donors can claim Gift Aid when they donate in GBP!
Wishing you happy holidays and a lovely New Year from Namuwongo!
Thank you so much for your support.
On Saturday, December 16, over 160 adolescents gathered at Alive Medical Services for the last Youth Day of 2017. Led almost entirely by AMS’ youth peer educators, Youth Day consisted of games, performances, singing, and dancing.
AMS staff also led educational sessions on the new differentiated service delivery model being rolled out at the clinic, which is working to decrease wait time for clients and increase efficiency for doctors.
The MCs of the event – three young people AMS trained as peer educators this past quarter – encouraged youth of all ages to show off what they do best. Performances included singing, dancing, miming, and even eating, the latter of which was showcased through an eating competition among six youth.
Later into the day, everyone participated in an activity led by AMS’ two music therapists. The music therapists introduced the group to samba, a Brazilian genre of music that relies on syncopated rhythms and heavy percussion.
Over 100 people beat drums, shook maracas, and played other musical instruments, coming together to create music from the other side of the Atlantic.
Youth were also given a chance to sign up for two new initiatives that will be launched at AMS next year: Positive. Powerful. Alive., a participatory storytelling project aimed to decrease stigma and open up conversation around HIV; and Peer Network Group, a platform for HIV positive clients to engage and interact with one another through synchronized appointments and activities.
“It was a day of reuniting, rejuvenation, and entertainment,” one youth said. “And of course, for making friends.”