Singing and wellbeing workshop

Posted by Unseen Team on the 20th February 2020 in Survivors in the Community, Survivors, Human Trafficking, Events

It’s Thursday and today we’re hosting the second in a series of regular wellbeing workshops for survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking who live in the community. We arrive at the community centre just after lunchtime. A few people are already milling around the room having a cup of tea. There’s a sleeping baby in a push chair. Several more people turn up in dribs and drabs. Two of them recognise each other and hug, their kids also say hello, but are shy at first, hiding behind their mum’s legs. A few more people arrive, and the room suddenly gets a friendly buzz as the kids start running around and playing. Some have a catch up, others meet for the first time.

Except for one woman who appears very confident, everyone in the room looks a little nervous; we don’t really know what to expect of the next hour.We just know it’s a singing workshop. So maybe everyone is shy about singing in front of others – I know I am.The ice is broken as a Romanian woman points out a mistranslation on one of the signs. Instead of “breath out”, it says “wind”.

Staff and survivors stand together in a semi-circle, one eye on the vocal coach, the other eye on all the toddlers running around. We do some warm-ups; we all have such serious faces. That is, until, we do “lip trills”an exercise that has us all laughing in stitches. Turns out it’s impossible to do this particular mouth warm up if you’re smiling, but it’s impossible not to smile when you see everyone doing it. Essentially, we’re blowing raspberries at each other across the room. Everyone immediately relaxes into the workshop.

We start by singing a few nursery rhymes and build up to more complicated songs and harmonies.The confident woman asks what the word “merrily” means, thinking we we’re singing “Marilyn and starts posing like Marilyn Monroe. Four of us completely forget which part we’re meant to be doing and again, we’re laughing, remembering we don’t need to take things too seriously, but can enjoy the process. The singing is accompanied by the raucous shaking of maracas, enthusiastic foot stomping and the sound of kids running around.

As our confidence grows, we sing a little louder.It’s really true what they say about singing as a group, I feel happier, energised and everyone suddenly looks more lively. When we have a quick break, conversation is flowing, people are animated and chuckling with each other about some of the songs.

The loud chatter in the room makes it hard to hear what the woman next to me is saying. I make out that she is an asylum seeker, so she’s not allowed to do paid work. Instead she studies a vocational course at the local college a few days a week. Partly to learn a skill that she’ll be able to use in the future, but also to socialise and to get out the house.

It’s a gentle reminder that for a survivor of modern slavery, just having an activity to do when you’re unable to work, having people to meet up with, can make a difference to your day. Singing in a group turned out to be a real confidence boost, something that made us smile and feel happy, and a way to connect with others.

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