Manitoba·Opinion

Music, the healing power in Winnipeg and worldwide

As I reflect upon this past year, I have been thinking a lot about the healing power of music to restitch the soul and transform communities, regardless of prevailing circumstance.

Make Music Matter uses the artful medium to generate growth in human rights and international development

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Make Music Matter is fostering change and breaking negative cycles. (Facebook)

As I reflect upon this past year, I have been thinking a lot about the healing power of music to restitch the soul and transform communities, regardless of prevailing circumstance.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Make Music Matter, the NGO that I founded, is using this artful medium to generate growth in the fields of human rights and international development, fostering change and breaking negative cycles. This year exceeded my expectations and imagination in regards to the program's reach and impact.

In 2015, I launched our Music Enrichment Program at the Panzi Hospital in the DRC, with partners Panzi Foundation USA and Panzi Foundation DRC, alongside multiple Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Denis Mukwege.

This program uses our specialized brand of music therapy to help survivors of sexual violence and their communities recover, reintegrate, and secure their rights for the future. Sadly, the DRC remains one of the most dangerous places to be a woman. Our program results show staggering and encouraging reduction in PTSD, trauma and depression. In fact, our preliminary data shows that nearly the majority of our participants have a significant reduction in PTSD after three months.

In September, we organized our first community concert from our music therapy program at Panzi (DRC). The concert was an incredible success, with performances by survivors of sexual violence, vulnerable women, their children and staff.

One participant was a 16-year-old survivor, who, at such a young age, has had two children born of rape.

One child lives with her grandmother in her home village, while the youngest, approximately one year old, lives with survivors at Panzi's aftercare facility, Maison Dorcas.

This innocent child serves as a constant reminder of the horror and trauma endured by his mother, which resulted in her perpetual rejection, offering her child very little attention and care. After the young mother participated in the Music Enrichment Program and subsequent community concert, her behavior toward her son began to shift.

She was so overjoyed by the response of the crowd that she lovingly picked him up and began kissing her baby. This embrace was the first time that she demonstrated an attachment to her child.

We just had our second community concert, with performances from the newest collection of materials by our artists/beneficiaries. It was a moment where both performer and audience member could forget their pain and participate in pure joy.

The mission and holistic approach pioneered by Dr. Mukwege and the Panzi Hospital and Foundations extends into their smaller rural outreach hospitals where we are currently testing our program in order to implement therapeutic and preventative measures for healing from the grassroots level.

While 2015 was a breakout year for Make Music Matter, I look forward to leveraging these successes to expand our programming outreach, continuing to increase capacity through local partnerships aimed at strengthening civil society, and deepening the dissemination channels for our music as technologies democratize.

For me, this is a very exciting premise considering our current audience via radio in the DRC is five million.

Not only is music therapeutic, but in this context it is an extremely powerful tool to educate the public on their civil rights while reducing the stigma of the survivors. I will soon be returning to the DRC and am extremely excited to witness our program continue to exceed my expectations in healing trauma and emboldening communities.

Feel free to follow Make Music Matter on Facebook.

Darcy Ataman is the Founder and CEO of Make Music Matter, a music producer and a founder and instructor of the social media section of the Human Rights UniverCity summer intensive at the University of Winnipeg.

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