Why I volunteer: “Because singing is the perfect medicine”

Categories: Community Engagement.

I was a primary school teacher for over thirty years, specialising in the arts and music in particular. I always loved singing and know how much pleasure people get from it, especially in a group. Singing together is so much more than just singing! It fosters collective joy and raises the spirits. Everyone feels proud of the sounds they produce and they want to do more.

When I retired from teaching I was determined to keep busy and keep learning, and I needed singing in my life so I trained as a volunteer  facilitator for Singing for the Brain at the Alzheimer’s Society and I have been doing that for over two years now. Last year I met a doctor from St Oswald’s at a conference where I was speaking about Singing for the Brain. She asked if I would be interested in coming to sing on a regular basis at the Focus on Living Centre, and that was how it started. I go once a month and I really look forward to it. I always get such a lovely welcome from everyone.

The thing I enjoy most is knowing that I am bringing some enjoyment to people who are very ill. We chat and laugh a lot, and share stories from our past and stories about the songs we sing. It is a very spontaneous  group so we may start doing actions or someone may start to harmonise. Basically, anything goes!

Our group consists of patients, volunteers and staff, and everyone makes suggestions for songs or themes which I sort out for the next session.  

The real highlights for me are the times when people say they will come in to the session but will not sing as they are feeling too ill or are having problems breathing. I always say that is not a problem and just to come and enjoy being with us. After one or two songs I have seen these people start to join in.

There have also been patients who have serious communication problems who want to come to the singing session. Seeing them start to tap their feet or move their lips is very moving, and proves that music goes much deeper than we can imagine. 

Volunteering is such a great thing to do. You share your skills, free of charge, in a way that benefits others. But it is actually so much more than that because when I am singing with my groups, I forget everything that is going on in my life and always come away feeling grounded and re-energised. Everyone has a skill they could share, they just need to get out there and start doing it!

For more information visit St Oswald’s Hospice