From being present to contributing: May and the community choir

I am part of May’s Community Circle, and the purpose of her circle is to get her singing again. This year we did our first performance together, singing with the choir as they performed at Bruce Lodge, where May lives.

I wanted to share the story of how this happened, through a person-centred thinking tool called Presence to Contribution. This is a way to think about how we can go from just doing something together to enabling someone to be a contributing member of a community. I must admit that I was not sure what would be possible and what would work for May.

We started by simply being present – by getting there at the right time and joining in. Every week we are given the song sheets for that week, and I put these together into a song book for us, with photos of us singing on the front.

When I collect May from Bruce Lodge she asks me who I am and where we are going so I started to take a photo of us singing every week to show her when I arrive, and these are in the front of our songbook too. At the circle meeting we agreed that I would text May’s niece every time we go. May and I do a selfie and text it to her, and usually by the end of our singing session she has texted us back.

As we started to turn up regularly with our songbook, we looked more involved and more committed, and after a few weeks people remembered our names (having presence).

Choir starts at 3.15 with a cup of tea and a biscuit. I suggested that we join the tea and coffee rota (actively participating) and found that May is brilliant at washing up. We sent a photo of her washing up to her niece, who texted back, ‘She would love that, she hasn’t done that for four years.’ May does love it, so we help with the washing up every week now, regardless of who is on the rota. This means we talk to a few more people, and people appreciate May’s help (connecting).

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May at Bruce Lodge 

At Bruce Lodge there was a celebration a few weeks ago, and I wondered if the choir could sing at it. I talked to the choir leader about it, and we asked the choir, who were enthusiastic. A letter went from the choir leaders to everyone that said, ‘One of our choir members, May, has invited us to sing where she lives, at Bruce Lodge…’

To be described as ‘one of our members’ felt great. Here was May, with my support, creating an opportunity for the choir to sing, and therefore contributing. It meant that we had to wear the choir uniform of red and black, and this required a new red blouse for May too.

Here we are, with the choir. May and I sang in front of her friends, people she lives with, her family and my family. It was a great afternoon for both of us.

Here we are, with the choir. May and I sang in front of her friends, people she lives with, her family and my family. It was a great afternoon for both of us.

 

Being present Getting to the singing group meetings on a Sunday.
Having presence Having her own songbook with all the songs. People knowing her name, and where she sits.
Actively participating Being on the tea and coffee rota.
Connecting Going to the performances as well as the Sunday sessions. Helping out with whoever is doing the washing up each week and getting to know a few people individually that way.
Contributing Inviting the group to a singing engagement, and helping to organise this.

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