volunteering as an attitude
Text: Rute Barbedo
Pictures: Kai Raku
If you find yourself playing maracas in a house in the middle of the forest, don’t panic. Probably, there is nothing wrong with it; you’re just part of a music therapy session, in JUKS 24 Hour Care Centre, where Zsuzsa Földes, a volunteer from Hungary, assists with her djambé.
Around 9 o’clock in the morning, seven people sit in a circle playing instruments such as xylophone, tambourines and other drums. The goal is to achieve a harmony: in music and in mind. Zsuzsa tries to be the guide, making them feel the rhythm, despite of the chaotic net of sounds that try to find each other.
In this room, as in the whole building, people have mostly constant and severe mental disorders, so their main goal – for the last 15 years – has been to improve their everyday life. “Last year, Anna couldn’t even play an instrument and now she is able to express herself”, tells the music therapist, Merle. And continues: “[Music] works with their self-esteem and allows them to express themselves. If they feel angry, for example, this is a way to get rid of all that energy.”
One of Zsuzsa’s main responsibilities in the center, as a volunteer, is to assist the music therapy sessions, as she plays djambé for some years and music is one of her main interests. Now that more than five months have passed since she arrived in Estonia, working as a music therapist to support people with mental disabilities is something that she really considers for her professional path. “I knew that this center had special classes, like arts, handicraft, music… and I’ve told them about my preferences. Now, I really like to work with them”, she declares.
But of course it is not an easy position. “It takes some time for clients to adapt to new people. That’s why is not good to receive short term volunteers here”, underlines Maivi, coordinator in JUKS, noting that the center started with 10 clients and now they are more than 100. According to Maivi, “there are not so many organisations like this in Tallinn and it is important really important for these people to have a place where they can raise their abilities”.
At the same time, life can turn into a boring cycle for them. “That’s why receiving volunteers from abroad is also important”, says Maivi. And “boring”, here, doesn’t really mean the weight of routine. “This boy [who is autistic]”, points the coordinator, “can spend one entire day making a puzzle… That one over there, for example, doesn’t communicate at all. One day, we could make him hold a pencil and that was a big victory”.
So, JUKS Day Care Center is about all of these small steps which make life go on. Steps that are made through specific rehabilitation plans, music, physical and occupational therapy, as well as art works (such as textile, design, glass, painting and ceramics).
*** Normally, volunteers placed in JUKS can accomplish their service here or in the Development Center, also designed for people with disabilities, but with the goal of making them compete in education and in the labor market. The subject will be developed in our next report, about the project of Tânia Ferreira, a Portuguese volunteer who came to Estonia in last September.