by Graeme Sacks
I’ve been working as a music therapist at the Johannesburg Children’s Home (JCH) since February 2020. Over time I’ve seen the music room develop into a kind of clubhouse for the children. Little ones sit happily drawing and colouring in while older kids sing, rap or dance to Amapiano. The room is always noisy, often chaotic and messy, and the energy levels are high enough to reach the moon.
Last year JCH employed drama therapist Naadiya Shaik Omar to do individual therapy sessions with the children. After meeting with Naadiya and discussing the needs of the children we decided to combine our skills and plan a series of workshops for the children. We began our first workshop with a group of young teenage girls and were met with resistance from the first session, spending the entire session trying to justify the reason for the workshop without success. We struggled our way through a few different groups and began to find better ways of working with these children.
The final group of the year consisted of nine girls aged seven to thirteen. We did a total of eight sessions with them and then an extra session to record their voices. I have enjoyed the luxury of having a co-therapist and I feel that the combination of music and drama therapy has offered us a rich pallet of strategies and activities that naturally complement each other. We created a safe, non-judgemental space for the children to explore topics such as bullying, emotions, hopes and dreams, worries and fears, and giving up. The girls tackled these topics through acting, role playing, singing, dancing, painting and playing and when questioned appeared to have come away with profound insights about themselves and others.
We started writing the song “We are JCH” in session one and continued singing and adapting it every week until we created the final version presented here. Naadiya and I facilitated the lyric writing process through writing prompts and other activities. The words are the children’s own.
Listen to the song: https://youtu.be/XAT9YhD7eCw
View the lyrics in the below image.