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Oamaru man saving lives in the Philippines by writing songs

Media release from Health Songs International. 10th December 2013

Oamaru man saving lives in the Philippines by writing songs

The Oamaru Health Songs International team left to right Theanne Bulatao, Rob Greaney and Robert Gonzales

Oamaru songwriter Rob Greaney is writing songs containing life saving health messages which are being broadcast into homes in the typhoon Haiyan devastated regions of the Philippines.

Rob set up Health Songs International in 2005 whilst participating in the relief work in the Asian tsunami affected province of Aceh.

He says he’s developed a technique for writing songs in any language, in any style, on any topic and he’s applying this knowledge to saving lives.

The shocking images of devastation and broken lives following typhoon Haiyan one month ago spurred Rob to rally members of the Oamaru Filipino community including the CEO of the local hospital Robert Gonzales and year 11 Waitaki Girls High School student Theanne Bulatao to write and record songs primarily on water and sanitation and in the Filipino language of Tagalog. “Theanne is an amazing singer and is one of the most professional musicians I’ve worked with” says Rob. Our first song about ways of making water safe to drink was being broadcast into Filipino homes a mere 72 hours after the disaster struck. You can hear our songs on our website www.healthsongs.org

Rob say “What a lot of people don’t realise is that in many instances more people die after the wind and water subsides than from the actual typhoon. Water-borne illnesses such as acute gastric diseases, cholera and dehydration from diarrhoea, all resulting from drinking contaminated water can cause thousands more to die so our songs, at least at this early stage teach all about how to make water safe before drinking”.

It’s essential that those affected by the disaster get the right information but with so many sudden changes to their lives it’s easy enough to forget even the little things. So we decided that jingles would be the best way to get these life saving messages to where they’re most needed.
“Some may want to use jingles to sell mortgages and some might want to sell cheese but we want to sell messages that save lives” says Rob.

Rob laughingly boasts that the international headquarters of Health Songs International is based in the township of Weston just outside of Oamaru and the local Presbyterian Church doubles as a recording studio by night.

Whilst Rob is focusing most of his energy on producing these very special songs in local languages and styles he has also started preparations that will enable him to relocate his mobile recording studio to wherever the next major disaster strikes. Rob says “It’s a sad reality but catastrophes come thick and fast and we want to be there, on the ground, within 72 hours producing and broadcasting these songs which will save many lives the next time disaster strikes.
Health Songs International is directed by Rob Greaney but relies entirely on the generousity of volunteers and donors. If you wish to donate to Health Songs International you can do so through their website www.healthsongs.org.

About Health Songs International
Health Songs International based in Oamaru and is an organization dedicated to bringing vital health messages to vulnerable communities throughout the world through the use of songs.

A health song is a simple and succinct message about a health related issue put to music. Rhyme and rhythm are a great help when it comes to remembering words. There has been a lot of scientific research on how these elements work together to help us with recall however to put it simply, the sound, shape and position of the words creates a familiarity that prompts the memory to select the next correct word or phrase.

Rob Greaney, founder of HSI has been writing songs for over 35 years.  In 2000 Rob travelled to Indonesia and entered an arts university in the West Java capital of Bandung.  Studying both language and musical styles Rob soon began to compose songs in Bahasa Indonesia.  In 2003 Rob was commissioned by a local NGO from a rural setting to create an album of “Health Songs” to help teach “Good health” messages. Through careful analysis of musical style and working closely with a team of skilled health workers, the album “Indonesia Sehat” or “Healthy Indonesia” was completed.  This album was used extensively by the group and was received with delight by the locals in the context of neighbourhood health clinics. This album was the genesis of Health Songs International as it is known today.

We’ve been active since 2000 working mostly in Indonesia but also conducting training in India and New Zealand. Rob’s 10 year goal is to mobilise 500 song writers from around the world to join Health Songs International and to use their skills as song writers to write songs which will carry these special life saving messages.

Rob has written, produced and distributed 30,000 albums in Indonesia. He is a qualified audio engineer graduating from the School of Audio Engineering SAE.

Health Songs International has written songs on subjects including:
-How to prevent the spread of flu
-HIV/Aids anti stigma song
-Signs and symptoms of trauma and stress (post tsunami)
-How to rehydrate infants with diarrhoea
-Dengue fever and malaria prevention
-Care of an infected wound
-Family planning
-How to quit smoking and many others.

We have run special in school gala events in Indonesia to teach children about the importance of hand washing with soap and neighbourhood level meetings teaching men how to quit smoking. All of our programs include as the main feature a catchy and easy to remember song which includes the key message of the program.

Website: www.healthsongs.org


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