Community Support Worker, Ralph St. Day Program Community Living Victoria

I am a Community Support Worker with Community Living Victoria.  I currently have the privilege of supporting two women who are always enthusiastic to attend and participate in Namaste Friday Music.  In looking back in our day program records we have discovered that both A. and M. have attended EVERY Friday on a regular basis (barring sickness, or other exceptional event) since Namaste Friday Music first started.  Over those decades Namaste Fri. Music has been a very real opportunity to reconnect with old friends and meet many new friends.   It is by far the most inclusive and participatory music event in town!  Some people who attend get right up on stage, or in front of the stage, and use the guest microphone, to sing the song of their choice, with the band of professional and renowned musicians and singers accompanying them.  And if by chance the band does not know the song, usually by the next week they will, and remember to call the guest singer back up so they can do their song. Not everyone goes up on stage, lots of other people sit, stand, walk or roll around during the music session.  And they get to join in as well if they wish. There is a grab box of percussion instruments put out each Fri. to share, and some people, like M. and A., bring their own instruments to use, that fit their specific needs, so that the audience is actually part of the band.  Friday music is a very popular place, and in true rock n' roll spirit is a loud and happy place.  It is wonderful, as a support worker, to see people that have had issues with crowds and noise, totally at ease in the midst of Namaste Fri. Music - it is truly a transformative place.  It is a place that requires cooperation to work, to take turns on stage, to share and return the instruments borrowed, to share the space and allow those that like to tour around a path through the crowd, to take into account the special mobility needs some people have and somehow in a wondrous way, it all works for everyone there.

During the years those of us that have attended have heard announcements of many, many birthdays, with the accompanying 'Happy birthday song,' along with announcements of new jobs, graduations, engagements, births, illness and people's passing.  Namaste Friday music is truly part of the greater community and is a huge part of people's lives.  For those attending it is the highlight of the week and a wonderful way to end the week on a high note.

I would be remiss to not mention, I as a support staff, through all of the various positions I have held at Community Living Victoria, since I was hired back in the early 90s, I have always been thrilled when, as part of my job, I was able to attend Namaste Friday music.  It has allowed me to continue relationships with people I no longer support, but each Friday I am able to reconnect and it has meant a lot to me.  As well, having such an inclusive event has meant some of the people I have supported in the past have been able to maintain relationships with people (other peers and support staff) that would have been lost. 

While originally intended for people who moved out of Glendale institution into homes throughout Greater Victoria, to have the opportunity to reconnect, it has morphed into an event that encompasses many more people, including those young enough to still be in high school, to those entering their retirement years. 

Both A and M are very willing to spend a portion of their day program budget on Namaste Friday music.  Years ago it was a suggested donation of $1, but times have changed and prices have gone up, but even at the suggested $2 both A. and M. consider it the best deal in town and would be a huge hole that could not be filled if they were not able to go.  

Cheryl McLachlan