The Include Choir helps Lucia Sabri find her voice & independence
Lucia Sabri, 20, loves to sing.
“But she’s finding the COVID-19 lockdown all a bit odd at the moment. She can’t quite understand where her peer group has gone,” says her mum Wendy.
Wendy assists Lucia to communicate for her daughter as Lucia has cerebral palsy, a condition that affects her movement, cognition and coordination.
Wendy and Lucia began attending The Include Choir in late 2019. The choir is run by National Lottery funded Include.org, a charity that offers a wide range of accredited and bespoke training opportunities, home-based activities and speech and language therapy services.
The Include Choir combines singing with inclusive communication skills such as Makaton signing, a language designed to help hearing people, who have learning or communications difficulties, with signs and symbols.
“Because of Lucia’s cerebral palsy she doesn’t have dexterity in her fingers so she’s unable to read, write, play an instrument, or go on social media like most people her age, but music she can do, and music she loves,” says Wendy.
The Include Choir meets once a week at St John’s Church, Redhill to sing, socialise and practice Makaton signing. But with COVID-19 keeping people in their homes, the Choir has moved online to keep the community connected.
“You see the thumbnails of people as they join, and everybody gets a little shout-out. For Lucia, being able to take part in her choir online is just good for normality,” says Wendy.
Director and founder of Include.org, Alix Lewer, says the group is maintaining support services for members as this is a particularly challenging and frightening for people with learning disabilities and autism.
“Supporting our members has been our number one priority since lockdown began,” says Alix. “And, The National Lottery Community Fund has been flexible enough to allow us to re-prioritise our spending needs and provide online services to lift spirits, maintain skills and continue to reduce the risk of isolation for people who are extremely vulnerable right now.
“Combining evidence-based speech and language therapy input with a high quality musical and social experience requires significant investment, so without funding from the National Lottery the Choir simply wouldn’t be possible.”
Alix wants to see a community where everyone is included, regardless of how they communicate.
“We make the world a more welcoming place for people with learning and speaking difficulties,” she says.
“During these hard times, we’ve also decided to open our doors to anyone who needs a bit of a boost, so, wherever you are, if you want to learn, refresh, or practice some Makaton signs, you’re more than welcome to join our inclusive community on Facebook.”
The Include Choir is funded through The National Lottery Community Fund’s Awards for All programme, which offers grants from £300 to £10,000 to support what matters most to people and communities.
Lucia’s growing passion for music and her strengthened Makaton signing skills speaks to value of the programme.
“Expressing herself through music, has made Lucia more independent,” says Wendy. “The Choir gives her structure, helps her memory, and she gets to spend time with people her age. There’s just so many benefits.”
“Watching Lucia take part in the Choir, I feel like I can step back and just be her friend, rather than her mother or her carer,” says Wendy.
“One day Lucia will go into supported living, but The Include Choir has made me see that I don’t need to worry about my daughter going out into the community on her own. So long as groups like the Choir exist, I won’t worry about her so much.”
Find out more about what other organisations are doing in response to the coronavirus pandemic on our COVID-19 Insights pages.