Even the sterile hospital environment can be injected with colour and warmth through music, art and creativity, which is why most patients would like to have regular performances in their wards.

Initially, I was hesitant to perform in a hospital... but the immediate feedback was that it was so much worth it...

Some 80 per cent of patients and staff interviewed at Mater Dei Hospital would love to have regular performances at the hospital, putting live music at the top of their list, explained Lina Borg Vassallo from the Raising Spirits project.

The project, which formed part of the European Year of Volunteering 2011, aims to promote creative and artistic volunteering within health care.

Volunteers from various organisations worked together last year to present performances at Mater Dei through a pilot project.

As the project neared its end in March, the team was working on finalising an action plan that would make it sustainable to have regular performances in various hospitals, explained project leader Nicola Critien.

A round table meeting with stakeholders was held on Tuesday to finalise the action plan and make it possible. Several people involved in the pilot project shared their experiences.

Voices choir conductor Anthony Vella, a magistrate, spoke about the rewarding experience he shared with patients and staff when his choir performed in hospital last December.

“Initially, I was hesitant to perform in a hospital.... I was wary of intruding into the private comfort zone of patients... but the immediate feedback was that it was so much worth it... Having brought smiles to the faces of patients and staff... was somewhat of a spiritual experience,” he said.

After the performance, a member of the choir received a text message from a patient that read: “You made our day.”

Paul Calleja, the nursing officer within the renal unit, said patients with kidney problems spent four hours on the dialysis machine about three times a week. That was very monotonous and the performances during the pilot project made a world of a difference.

“By simply playing some music, the atmosphere changed dramatically to a more serene one,” he said.

Raising Spirits partners include SOS Malta, Mater Dei Hospital, Voices Foundation, the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts and the Malta Cancer Foundation.

To learn more about the project or contribute to the action plan visit www.raising-spirits.com.

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