1st Northern Ireland Blog of 2012!

April 22, 2012 | By wickley wickley

SVP, 2012

If I’m being honest, I have to say that my months (and years) in Northern Ireland have been more frustrating than in any other country.  I have

centers who enthusiastically sign up for the free music program and are very excited about it, until it comes time to actually do it and they find out that it’s a bit of work for the volunteers who will be helping me teach–they will need to have training sessions with me, memorize the notes, practice the instruments, practice teaching, help teach, and ultimately BE teachers for the children.  Self esteem is a big problem here in Northern Ireland, and even those who really want to help often find themselves giving reasons to quit because they don’t believe that they can actually do it.

But when it comes together it’s magic. And this week was magic.

SVP, April 2012

Local volunteer Maud helping student, SVP 2012

St. Vincent de Paul (SVP) is one of the centers doing our music program.  They are in an area of Belfast called Turf Lodge, and work with some of Northern Ireland’s most disadvantaged children.  These children face persistent poverty, social exclusion, drugs, and violence every day.  The SVP center runs a breakfast club, an afterschool center, and summer programs for the children.  It’s a great place.

Kids excited to learn! SVP 2012

I’ve been working with SVP since 2004, whenever we’ve had enough funding to send me to Northern Ireland.  Currently they have four staff members who are receiving the SMF training so they can help me teach now, and teach on their own when I’m gone.  The older (6-11) children are all in harmonica class, and the younger children join us for singing.


Singing "Gum Gooley Gooley" at SVP, April 2012

Early this week in the singing class, Sonyia, the head childcare worker at SVP, who has been part of our programs since 2004, suggested I teach the children the song “Gum Gooley Gooley”.  This is a great song that includes a story about traveling across the desert, making faces, and spitting like a camel.  The kids loved it.

SVP staff member Adam helps student on harmonica, April 2012

When I came back a couple of days later for the harmonica class, the children were in the break room getting their afternoon toast.  As I walked up the stairs, I could hear the children singing.  When I got closer, I realized they were singing “Gum Gooley Gooley” at the top of their lungs, and having a great time.  It was so awesome!!

SVP staff member Eoin helping harmonica student, April 2012


Because SVP is quite far away from any Protestant areas, and don’t have any transportation, they aren’t able to participate in weekly cross-community programs.  But they always participate in concerts and try to participate activities with the other groups.

Group Photo After Harmonica Class, SVP, April 2012 The SVP staff and volunteers in the back row are Martine, Eoin, Sonyia & Maud

Next time I’ll write about yesterday, our magical day bringing the children from two centers (one Catholic, one Protestant) together for the first time!