National Indigenous Peoples Day

June 21, 2019

For a lot of people, June 21 marks the first day of summer – a day of coconut sun-screen scented trips to the beach that mark the beginning of a much-loved season. But it also marks another important moment for many to celebrate – a time to acknowledge National Indigenous Peoples Day.

This day inspires Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. And there is an important program within Vancouver that uses music therapy to help deliver strength, hope and resilience to Indigenous women, specifically, who are over-represented in street-based sex work and have experienced severe trauma related to colonization and the residential school experience.

WISH Drop-In Centre Society provides support to these women who work in the street-based sex trade – 60 percent of whom are homeless, and half of whom are Indigenous.

On average, sex workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside enter prostitution at age 14.

They have a life expectancy of 40 years.

In the face of this trauma, WISH offers a range of services to support women who are often denied both their basic needs as well as a sense of dignity and self-worth.

Music Therapy is offered to participants for three hours every second Friday, and 30 minutes every Sunday evening. Guided meditation with music, singing and playing music together with the music therapist, songwriting, learning to play an instrument, listening to clients’ favorite songs and lyric analysis are all ways in which women participating in the program reach their objectives to decrease anxiety and stress, increase self-expression, build self-esteem and increase access to health and social services.

“The creation of Music Therapy at WISH has been a phenomenal addition to WISH programming and provides an impactful service to many participants,” says a WISH employee.

“Participants now have the opportunity to access meaningful skill-building and counselling support from the music therapist, all in a relaxing environment that also serves to create and deepen relationships between each other. The expansion of the music therapy program to include one-on-one sessions, and soon enough piano and guitar lessons, is a credit to our dedicated music therapy staff and shows the considerable impact that dedication has had for the women of WISH.”

“We would like to sincerely thank Music Heals and its supporters for the generous funding which has helped so many women. Both the grant and the connection to Vancouver’s music scene has meant that we have a growing community of supporters who have learned about WISH’s Music Therapy program and are considering new and innovative ways to support it. The WISH Music Therapy program has grown into an important and beautiful component of the varied aspects of healing and growth and change that WISH aims to foster for women in the DTES.”
To donate to the Music Therapy program at WISH, please contact