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Sing Up Foundation appoints a team of researchers from University of Limerick

16th January 2023

Sing Up Foundation has appointed Dr Hala Jaber, Dr Fran Garry and Professor Helen Phelan from the University of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance to conduct research on the impact that singing has on the mental health and wellbeing of young refugee children and unaccompanied minors. Inspired by the British Council’s World Voice projects in Greece and Palestine working with young refugees, this research is supported by the British Council funding received by the Foundation to continue the legacy of World Voice.

As part of this work, the research team, headed up by Dr Hala Jaber, will conduct a literature review and evaluation of the benefits of singing on the mental health of young refugees and unaccompanied minors; develop recommendations on how to set up and run sessions and projects in future; and build a repository of research and evaluations in this field for the benefit of organisations looking to develop their practice in this area.

The research considers that political and other types of refugees form a group with added vulnerability to developing mental illness, thought to be due to a complex interaction of social, biological and psychological factors, playing out over the lifespan and across communities. Anecdotal reports from teachers working every day with young refugees in their classrooms and from music organisations and World Voice projects overseas, suggests that prioritising singing can help. However, the evidence base for arts interventions in the refugee community is still in development and there is need for a comprehensive, clear collection of effective and evidence-based practice to support the development of this work. With this research project, the Foundation hopes to help inform work in this area and improve outcomes for these young people.

Researchers Dr Hala Jaber, Dr Fran Garry and Professor Helen Phelan said, “We are very happy to be working with the Sing Up Foundation on this important research project. As a group of music facilitators and researchers, we recognise the power of music to engage people, and enable the sharing of lived experience. Much of our work focuses on the role of music in supporting the inclusion, health and wellbeing of refugees, particularly in post-conflict contexts. We believe that the best learning comes from combining practice with research and are looking forward to uncovering and sharing, through this project, the knowledge and experiences of excellent music practices when working with refugees and unaccompanied minors.”

Celi Barberia, Head of Sing Up Foundation said, “We have been so inspired by the work we have seen with young refugees and wanted to support the sector with this research to help inform practice and promote the impact that it can have on the lives of these very vulnerable young people. We are passionate about the benefits of singing on health and wellbeing and hope that through this research review we can help support those working with young refugees and unaccompanied minors to use the most effective evidence-based singing strategies to help improve outcomes. We are excited to be working with Dr Jaber, Dr Garry and Prof Phelan who are experts in the field and excellent advocates for the work.”

Find out more about Sing Up Foundation and their work at