Include Choir is a choir with inclusive communication at its heart. The choir provides a space for people with and without communication difficulties to get together and sing, as well as teaching inclusive communication skills and promoting social inclusion.
Voluntary Action Reigate & Banstead have matched a volunteer to Include Choir, helping them with essential tasks to keep the choir going remotely during the Coronavirus outbreak, and with planning for the future. Alix Lewer, Director of Include Choir, tells us more:
“I set up Include Choir in 2016. We are a registered charity and we have 80 members on our books; around 70% have speaking or understanding difficulties of some description. The choir has a huge amount of value; belonging to a choir is uplifting, reduces isolation, is good for mental health, and our members love getting together with others to chat, laugh, learn, sign and sing. For all our members, the choir is also an important way for them to practice and develop their communication skills.
Like so many others, the Coronavirus outbreak has had a huge impact on our members. We have of course had to stop our weekly meetings at a local church, and instead have set up a weekly choir session on Facebook. We have opened this out to anyone who wants to join and have over 200 members in the group, which is fantastic. Up to 40 are joining our weekly choir sessions at any one time. On top of that, we are running a weekly ‘virtual tea break’ for local members to chat and socialise.
The importance of carrying on the choir can’t be understated – many choir members are finding the current situation particularly overwhelming and distressing, and maintaining this part of their routine really helps to give them a sense of normality, as well as lifting their spirits.
However, keeping up with the technical side of running an online choir securely and effectively has been tricky. I really needed a technical expert to help, and this is where Peter comes in! VARB matching a technical expert like Peter to us has been an absolute godsend. Not only is he helping us with current priorities like ensuring data protection is sound, the systems we use are secure, and that all the tech runs smoothly for our weekly sessions – he is also helping us to future-proof, and make sure we are sustainable moving forward. He’s helping us improve our internal and external communications tech processes – which are crucial at the current time and will help us be more flexible and able to manage the challenges in connecting our members, volunteers and our wider network.
Having Peter volunteer for us is having a big impact on the wellbeing of our choir members and on the stability of the organisation itself, during this unprecedented situation. We can’t thank him enough for what he’s doing – and VARB, for matching him to us.”
Anyone is welcome to join Include Choir and improve their inclusive communication skills in lockdown – find out more at www.facebook.com/IncludeChoir/. And keep an eye out on our social media channels to hear more from Include Choir’s volunteer, Peter, in the near future!