Awards for All brings power of music to NI Children’s Hospice

Written by Lucy Gollogly

Children and young people with life-limiting conditions are benefiting from music therapy, thanks to support from the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All programme. The Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice is one of 107 projects across Northern Ireland sharing in a grants windfall of more than £900,000.

The small grants programme has awarded £10,000 to the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice for its music therapy project. The organisation is based in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim but cares for children from all over Northern Ireland. This is part of a grants roll-out of £909,970 to 107 groups across Northern Ireland.

Awards for All offers community, voluntary and statutory groups the chance to apply for small grants of between £500 and £10,000 that will have a big impact on local communities and the lives of people most in need.

The grant to the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice will provide music therapy sessions for one year.

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“The ability to respond to music is a natural human ability. It is unimpaired by any sort of disability, illness or injury. Using music as a therapeutic tool allows us to make a real connection with the children and communicate with them in a way that may otherwise not be possible,” music therapist Jenny Kirkwood from the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust, who delivers the sessions, said.

“The child and their family can address certain emotions and feelings without having to state it in words. It can also provide an experience that the family can take part in together.

“It is a real privilege to work with the kids here. I learn easily as much from them in terms of how they interact and how they communicate. It’s hugely rewarding and it’s about those moments when you find a way to make a connection with a child.”

Grace Stewart, care services manager at the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice, said music therapy benefited children at every stage of their care but that it was particularly valuable during the final stages of life.

“Probably one of the most powerful aspects that I have seen as a practitioner is around end of life care – children who are dying,” she said.

“We have seen the music therapists interact with the children, sing their favourite songs – and when the child is lying to all intents and purposes unconscious, you can see some sort of a reaction, and you can perhaps see a child begin to move.

“That makes all those final words – ‘I love you’ and ‘we will miss you’ – much more powerful because the family who are in that room can really understand that they are being heard.

“Very often we can record or tape those sessions and they form part of a really lovely memory for the families of those children.

“Music therapy is one the things that we fight very hard to keep and this funding allows us to do that.”

Joanne McDowell, Big Lottery Fund NI Director, said: “The Big Lottery Fund’s NI Awards for All programme funds health, education, environment and community projects that help people bring about positive change in their lives, improve health and well-being, develop skills and create safer communities.

“The application process is simple and accessible and shall remain so, making it easy for applicants to successfully apply for small pots of funding that can have such a big impact on local communities and lives.”

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