Sitting down for a cup of tea with Alexia Quin is something I’ve been doing for nearly 30 years. But today was particularly special because it marked the beginning of Cupsmith’s support for Music as Therapy International, the charity Alexia set up in 1995.
I’ve been so proud to watch Music as Therapy International grow from a one-girl mission with a pad of paper and a burning desire to help others, to an award-winning team of inspirational, dedicated people running projects around the world, and training over 800 caregivers to deliver this incredible work in their own countries.
Over tea, I asked Alexia about the work of the charity, what drives her and how we might be able to help.
Emma: Can you tell our readers about Music as Therapy International and the work you do?
Alexia: We’re a UK registered charity with twenty years’ experience of creating and delivering innovative, high-impact music therapy projects around the world. We believe passionately in the power of music to make the most of people’s potential, overcoming obstacles such as disability, trauma and mental illness.
We are always looking at different ways to make this opportunity available to as many people as possible, and how the care staff, who know the children and adults they look after better than anyone else, can help make it a reality. This takes us to different corners of the world and to very different types of places, ranging from refugee camps to care homes for people living with dementia, and from psychiatric clinics to schools for children with disabilities. We provide local staff with the training, resources and support they need to use music themselves, and in doing so strengthen the care they are providing.
Emma: Which countries do you work in?
Alexia: Our roots lie in the orphanages in Romania, where I first volunteered in 1992 and have since returned many times over the years. From 2010 we began to receive requests from other countries and have since expanded our reach to Rwanda, Georgia, Myanmar, India, Ethiopia, Georgia, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the UK.
Emma: Can you tell us about the work you’re doing specifically in the UK?
Alexia: Our UK work has three focus areas: children under five years of age, adults with learning disabilities and people living with dementia. Both research and our own experience has shown the incredible impact music can have on people’s wellbeing, regardless of the challenges they might be facing in their lives. By training teachers and care staff we give them the tools, skills and confidence to improve care on a daily basis.
Emma: Can you give us an example of a situation in which music therapy has made a difference?
Alexia: There are just so many, it’s hard to know where to start. I mean, literally every week we hear from someone who has felt the benefit of music. Last month we heard from a group of early years practitioners who we have trained to use music with pre-school children. One of them told us about a little boy who she said found it difficult to play with other children and sit in the place even for a short period of time. His father remarked on his significant progress since starting to take part in music sessions, progress he described to the lady who was running the sessions as a “miracle!”’ Then at the other end of life we heard from local staff we trained to use music in a hospice in Ethiopia. Wal, one of the nurses, told us how he saw patients exploring ways to both manage pain and “forget previous issues”, as he described it, through the music making.
Emma: What drives you to keep going?
Alexia: When I delivered our first project back in 1995, I never for a moment imagined it would grow to become an international charity that continues to improve lives over 20 years later. With each step we have taken, my belief in the power of music has been continually reinforced. Yet whilst we have touched the lives of thousands of vulnerable people, and the challenges I encountered in Romania in the mid-90s might not be the same as those we face today, there is still so much more we can do. While there is still room to improve care for the most vulnerable people in the world, we still have a job to do – that’s what drives me to keep going!
Emma: How can we help at Cupsmith?
Alexia: The majority of our time and expenditure is focused on delivering the work we do, not promoting our work. You can help by raising awareness and telling people what we do, because the more people we can reach, the more music therapy we can share. It's lovely to think of someone sitting down for a cup of Cupsmith tea, spotting our name on the packet, and letting their curiosity lead them to find out more about Music as Therapy International. And who knows, they could even be a future music therapist, volunteer, carer or donor.
I’m also touched to have the support of someone who really has been alongside the charity every step of the way. You wrote me letters to cheer me on when I was first spending time in Romania – back in the days before email! You’ve sat through many an evening of me trying to make sense of some of the complex social issues I’ve encountered in other countries as well as here in the UK. Given the insight you have into the charity, the fact that you and George have chosen to put Cupsmith’s support behind us is a massive endorsement. My entire, small team feel that too. It’s a boost which (along with your Calm Days Tea!) strengthens us as an organisation.
If you'd like to find out more, volunteer or make a donation to Music as Therapy International, please visit their website at www.musicastherapy.org. We're delighted to support the work of Music as Therapy International by making a donation to them with every packet of Cupsmith coffee, tea or hot chocolate sold. To shop our full range of teas, coffees and hot chocolates, click here >