Hope North Uganda Project: March 2016

Sing Out! International will be leading a 6-week music therapy program at Hope North Uganda-a secondary and vocational school for former child soldiers-in March 2016! The co-founders, Directors, and facilitators, Ashley-Drake Estes and Haden Minifie, will be focusing on trauma and community music therapy in their approach.

For almost three decades, the country of Uganda has faced turmoil at the hands of rebel leader, Joseph Kony, and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Kony and his followers have pillaged towns and communities throughout northern Uganda, enlisting children and adolescents to join them. Those enlisted are faced with the decision to kill or be killed. Although the Ugandan Army has made countless efforts to limit the power of LRA, the LRA has thrived due to support from the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Okello Sam and fellow classmates were among the many children abducted into a rebel army. Fortunately, Okello managed to escape, but then years later, he was struck with tragic news when his brother was forced into the LRA along with 50 other children. Okello then learned of the deaths of 300 people including relatives, friends, and classmates from his village, and this drove him to find a way to help other child soldiers. He purchased forty acres of land in northern Uganda, in a location protected by the Nile River, and drove a truck into areas of conflict to invite any soldier he met to leave the LRA and join him in his school.

Music plays a significant role in Ugandan culture; it unifies communities, and is a common form of cultural expression. While Hope North protects and educates former child soldiers, music therapy is not currently offered. Music therapy has the ability to provide a context for expressing feelings and emotions that words may not be able to convey.

The six-week program is designed to utilize a community music therapy approach to foster connection within the community, equip the children and adolescents with techniques to continue personal and communal growth after the conclusion of the program, and accounts for evaluation and continuation of services after Ashley-Drake and Haden return from Uganda.

For Hope North Uganda, music therapy has the potential to address the following goals:

  1. Engage the parasympathetic nervous system (the brain’s healing function that counteracts the autonomic nervous system-the brain’s fight-or-flight response to a traumatic event)
  2. Increase expression
  3. Increase positive coping skills
  4. Improve quality of life
  5. Improve connectedness to community
  6. Decrease stress response

To address these goals, the following music therapy interventions will be used:

  1. Group processing
  2. Group singing
  3. Group drumming
  4. Songwriting
  5. Improvisation
  6. Relaxation with music

Sing Out! International has created a GoFundMe site to help fund its Hope North project. Every little bit helps, and any donation is greatly appreciated. The co-founders, Ashley-Drake Estes and Haden Minifie, hope that you will share this link with friends and family to further the reach of music therapy to heal the emotional wounds of people around the world. Thank you so much!


Check out these links to find out more about Hope North’s school and mission:

Facebook: Hope North


(photo retrieved from