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Raising patients' spirits

Posted Date: 25/09/2011

The Malta Independent on Sunday - 25 September 2011


Laughter is the best medicine. We’ve heard that expression many a time. Laughter is the best treatment for mind and soul as it heals and renews, but best of all, it is free and makes people feel better instantly. Raising Spirits is a local initiative that capitalises on this notion − bringing a smile to patients’ faces through art to make them feel better.

Raising Spirits is a project that aims at promoting, enabling and facilitating an environment for creative and artistic volunteering in Malta’s healthcare institutions to improve patient recovery and community well being holistically.

The idea was born as an offshoot of SOS Malta’s Volserv, a voluntary service at Mater Dei Hospital.

Led by SOS Malta, the initiative is a flagship project launched within the framework of the European Year of Volunteering 2011. SOS Malta is working in partnership with Mater Dei Hospital, the Malta Cancer foundation, Voices Foundation and the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts.

Project manager Nicola Critien explained that the group’s aim is to bring national stakeholders together to explore the infrastructure required for the introduction of regular creative and artistic volunteering activities at Mater Dei Hospital, and to promote the set-up of volunteer-driven structures for this purpose.

A group of trained volunteers who form part of Raising Spirits’ organising committee are currently conducting research at Mater Dei Hospital to find out what patients and hospital workers think about introducing art there.

The group, consisting of eight volunteers from various backgrounds including drama, social work and music, received 18 hours of interactive training focused on organising arts in health initiatives. The group have formed a committee and will concentrate on raising awareness on the benefits of arts events in hospitals and other care settings and pave the way for the sustainability of such actions.

“At the moment we are ironing out all the details including discussing logistical issues with staff and making an assessment of the resources we have available. We are planning on producing two performances towards the end of the year and we are working on a draft three-year national action plan to introduce more creativity which is conducive to a better vibe in hospital,” Ms Critien added.

The committee will then recruit volunteers to start implementing the action plan, she added, and each representative of the different project partners will act as mentors for the volunteers who will be recruited. She hopes that around 100 volunteers having different talents are recruited every year.

Last week, a half-day seminar was held at Mater Dei Hospital for the different stakeholders to explore ways and means of developing and increasing volunteering in healthcare.

The event was characterised by an exchange and sharing of good practices brought over from the UK. Contributors included chief executive of Music in Hospitals UK Diana Greenman, and Jayne Howard, director of Arts for Health Cornwall. Their contributions were based on the key findings and practices described in a compendium of good practices compiled by project partners prior to this seminar.

An initial exchange of ideas and good practices on how organised and regular creative and artistic volunteering activities in healthcare can be introduced, based on the experiences and good practices relayed, was facilitated between the different stakeholders.

Meanwhile, those willing to spend a few hours raising the spirits of patients should contact Ms Critien on 7904 0506.



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