Enable2 helps the Millside Centre get in tune with local residents to form community choir

15 Oct 2018

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Enable2 are always looking for opportunities to direct their social return investment. So when Helen Hoyle, Social Return Manager at Enable2 met Furaha Mussanzi, Centre Manager for the Millside Centre at a migrants meeting and Furaha mentioned she wanted to set up a community choir, Enable2 agreed to help.

Furaha explains the idea behind the choir:

“The Millside Centre is passionate about supporting vulnerable people in the community and equipping them with the right tools to thrive despite the many challenges they may be facing. We wanted to bring people together from our different communities, to share and learn songs with each other and to benefit from the activity of singing, as well as having the opportunity to have a chat.”

With Enable2’s support, specialist community singing coach Fran Wyburn was recruited to lead the twelve sessions planned. An average of twelve people attended each session, having the opportunity to suggest their choice of song, with the group learning them even if they were not in their first language.  A range of songs were sung, and a songbook produced.

Singing is scientifically proven to improve wellbeing and low mood, with hormones being released that actually alleviate anxiety and stress. Feedback from the sessions has shown this; how members have felt uplifted, experiencing significant improvements in their wellbeing:

“After class I feel relaxed. I am smiling full day. I got energy.”

“I had just left a course and didn't know what to do, now I feel much better and have a place to go.”

“It makes me feel happier, less stressed and freer. It's something I can pass onto children at group I work at.”

“Making new friends and learning a lot of new songs in different languages, having the confidence to try something new, and lifting up your mood for the whole day.”

“Through singing I am able to make myself happy. It helps to let go of negative thoughts.”

“Yes, I have made a few new friends and breathing exercises have helped relax.”  

 

The community choir sessions, now named Millside Voices, has been so successful that they have continued. Enable2 have part-funded a second series of sessions and a corporate sponsor is now sought. Furaha is working on recruiting more members to the choir while volunteers are also helping to run the sessions.

Furaha reflects on what has been achieved so far, some of the challenges they face and what she hopes they’ll go on to achieve:

“We have a multilingual choir with people from many countries. Friendships are being formed and there is a supportive, safe, uplifting and joyful atmosphere helped by all those who attend. We also have people attend who have additional needs.

 

 Maintaining some of the harder to engage participants on a long-term basis and encouraging people to come more frequently is a challenge. This needs a lot more time and commitment, and individual attention to explore what barriers they may face in attending. Our plan is to carry out focused outreach to engage a larger group of participants and create further opportunities for people to take part and sing.”