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If the experience of Hurricane Maria was hard for adults, imagine how difficult it was for children who are victims of abuse and live in shelters.
During Maria’s passage, fear and anxiety invaded them. They also dealt with the damage to their surroundings and the lack of essential utilities, such as water and electricity.
There is proven evidence that music is a powerful tool to help reduce anxiety and heal emotional wounds, both in children and adults.
As part of our Embracing Puerto Rico campaign, children from the Network of Youth Shelters and Centers for Minors of Puerto Rico (RAICEM-PR, by its Spanish acronym) received music therapy sessions, thanks to an effort from Music and Nation Foundation. Music therapy is a discipline that uses the therapeutic clinical aspect of music to work with different conditions.
María Del Carmen Gil, executive director of Fundación Música y País, explained that Maria’s trauma represented a greater loss for these children.
“The goal was that, through music therapy sessions, they could channel and internalize all those experiences. We were able to show very positive results among the 450 boys and girls we visited in 27 shelters throughout the Island,” Gil explains.
During the music therapy sessions, the children used musical instruments and played and sang songs related to the hurricane as part of group dynamics designed to get them to talk about their feelings and emotions.
Through this process, they transformed negative thoughts into positive ones. In addition, they created musical instruments using hurricane debris.
Two sessions per shelter were offered in the first stage of the visits. In a second stage, 10 sessions will be offered in each of the chosen shelters, thanks to an alliance between Banco Popular Foundation, Boston Foundation and the Hispanic Federation.
These sessions will be provided in coordination with social workers and psychologists who will follow through individual cases, although group sessions will also take place.
For Marcos Santana, president of the Shelter Network, music therapy sessions were very timely, and served as the first step to address the emotional aftermath of the hurricane’s ravages in children.
After the hurricane, the children were sad, crying and showing fear every time it rained. These were signs of the urgent need to work with their emotional state, while other necessities of supplies and basic needs were met.
“The ravages of the hurricane came to add an additional stress to children survivors of violence, who usually have had a very difficult life. These children have lost their schools, families and homes when removed from their houses and brought to a shelter. To add to their sad situation, after Maria they experimented dramatic changes in their environment, like seeing trees on the ground and having their playgrounds in the shelters destroyed.”
The shelters were music therapy sessions took place are in Bayamón, Humacao, Aguadilla, Mayagüez and other locations in the center of the island. RAICEM-PR supports 104 shelters in 32 municipalities in Puerto Rico. About 2,000 children receive their services in the shelter’s network.