The Include Choir | Include.org

Meet Beth

Everyone is welcome

When I talk to people about Include, I always say how much it has made a huge, positive impact in my life and improved my quality of life, given me a purpose and that it is the BEST charity I have ever come across where EVERYONE is included, everyone is welcome.

I want the world to know that there is no place anywhere that makes you feel so included, safe, comfortable, happy and purposeful as Include does.

How it started

I first found out about Include by research. I moved back down to Surrey from Coventry, and wanted to find out if there were any Makaton groups nearby and that’s how I came across Include. I messaged Alix and it all went from there.

I wanted to get involved because I was very lonely and I enjoy Makaton so much, and use it a lot personally.

At first, I was very anxious, only because I always am when facing new places, people and situations BUT this didn’t last long! Soon I was comfortable and felt ‘included’ and part of an amazing community and surrounded by lovely, genuine people.

When I first went to Include, I started off just joining in the choir every Wednesday evening in Redhill.

Growing in confidence

It wasn’t long before I wanted to volunteer, make a difference and help others.

I also started to attend some of the Stroll and Sign walks on Saturdays, going to performances, and helping to design the new ‘Star of the month’ certificate and another certificate.

I am also now part of the Champions Group which I really enjoy and feel we all make a difference by working on and designing Easy Reads for people and giving examples and explaining things like ‘reasonable adjustments’ etc. 

Since being part of Include, I have gained confidence, made friends and have something to really look forward to each week; helping others, having fun, being included and having a purpose.

Signs of Change

Although I already knew most Makaton signs before I came across include, I have gained more skills from The Include Choir and the Champions Group. These include improved speaking and listening skills, trusting people because I feel comfortable with the people I’m surrounded by and learnt a couple more skills on my computer.

The things I do with Include really help me day to day and help my support workers, family and others around me to understand and communicate with me, and others in a better or different ways.

When I struggle, I can become non-verbal, so for support workers and family to know basic Makaton signs is very important and helpful. I am now able to feel confident to teach them the important basic signs that are useful so that they can best support me. 

I think it is important for people in all sorts of jobs to know basic Makaton e.g. hospital staff, doctors, teachers in schools, dentists and other professionals that might come across people who may use a different form of communication like Makaton.

We are all different…

My favourite quote is ‘we are all different, but all equal’ and I feel everyone at Include is treated equally no matter what their needs are and this makes me very proud to be a part of such an amazing group.

The next step in my Include story is to do volunteering more and make more of a difference, help people more, improve more skills and gain more confidence.

I have a goal and that is to do a solo Makaton song at Christmas, I hope I can get enough confidence in time.

Discovering Include is the BEST thing that’s happened and I am very grateful for all that everyone does to make it such a lovely, enjoyable group.

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager

There is no magic wand!

I first found out about The Include Choir by word of mouth, from my friend Hannah. She recommended it to me because she knows I enjoy fun things and singing takes your mind off your worries.

When I came along, I found that everyone is very friendly, this group does not separate out one type of person from another.

If people have autism or mental health needs etc they are accepted. Everyone is accepted for who they are.

I decided to Run Reigate to represent Include.org and help raise money for the charity and its work. It is the first time I have done a race to raise money.

My journey to doing this half marathon was a long one! It has taken me a few years to get here.

There is no magic wand – I had to put the graft in!

I was very good at running when I was in college, but I stopped doing it and wasn’t even able to do a 5K at first. What got me back into running was seeing my friends Tina and Andrew, who I met at the Prospero Theatre group, doing so much running. Tina did the London Marathon and Andrew is training to do an Ultra marathon which is 50miles and also a 100mile race – they have inspired me and helped to coach me.

Once I could do a 5K comfortably, I gradually built up from there to a 6K and 7K and so on. Over the last 2 or 3 years I have got better and better at it. It goes to show that if your body is healthy enough you can do it.

I will never be like Mo Farah winning gold – but I still love it and for me it’s more about the journey than getting a gold medal.

Run Reigate was actually my 3rd half marathon! I did Denbies and Woldingham, and for those I had never run that far before (and not with so many hills), but once I got to 12 miles I just pushed myself that extra bit to get to the end.

I feel I haven’t achieved a lot since my college days – but I was ready to take on my next challenge and fundraising for a great cause like Include.org has made me feel like I have achieved a lot. It is a super feeling to help the choir – not just running for myself. 

The day of Run Reigate didn’t go completely smoothly for me! I was going to get a lift there but the person who offered forgot and so I was then running late and had to drive myself there. I was still in Redhill at 9am and my race started at 9.15am in Reigate! When I finally arrived, I had to jump over the railings to get to the start line on time! I had my backpack on too – but it had my water in it and I knew I would be glad to have that.

There was a good vibe at Run Reigate. I enjoyed seeing everyone – some people also running spoke to me. They reassured me when I had to stop for a comfort break that I wasn’t the only one to need to do that!

It’s not just the running but the people, the stalls, the music – that’s the reward after the run!

The weather was also good and I enjoyed exploring parts of the countryside of Reigate and Horley that I wouldn’t normally see.

And finally, it was great to see the finish line ahead! 

The Include Run Reigate fundraiser is still going. Please donate here: Team fundraiser – Run Reigate Include.org Team (peoplesfundraising.com)

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager

The Run Reigate Journey

On 27 July some of The Include Choir went along to the Run Reigate Run Club in Priory Park – led by Jas Dhanda from Reigate Priory Athletic Club.

While the runners were put through their paces, we sang and signed some running themed songs like Don’t Stop me Now.

Seeing the runners prepare mentally as well as physically took me back to my 2019 Run Reigate journey. It was before the world-changing events of Covid19, but after some fairly significant events in my own life.

It was the first time I had run more than a few kilometres since breaking my back and neck.

In 2010 I fractured my spine in 7 places, and broke my shoulder, hip and hand when somebody opened their car door into the road as I was approaching on my motorbike.

Thanks to a good quality bike helmet I was incredibly lucky to avoid a brain injury.

When I think how close I came to experiencing the sorts of understanding or speaking difficulties that Include.org tries to tackle, I get a shiver down my (now mended) spine.

I spent 3 months in a rigid brace and it was another 6 months before I could return to work.

If someone had told me then that I would complete Run Reigate’s 10k run, I would have thought they were joking!

I felt so lucky to be able to take part.

At Parallel London in 2017 one of our members David not only performed with The Include Choir, singing and playing the drum – he also got the team’s fastest time at the event’s sensory 1k.

David has a visual impairment – but this didn’t affect his speed! This event, held at the Olympic Park in London, was a real memory maker for David and many of the rest of us.

Memories made for all the right reasons – feeling involved and able to shine.

We’re going to talk more with the Run Reigate organisers to look into the idea of a fully accessible sensory race in the future.

It’s not that everyone wants to aim for the longest distance, or the fastest time that makes events like Run Reigate or Parallel London truly bonding for the community. It’s creating a space for all the personal magic moments that happen along the way.

Sometimes these moments begin months before the day itself…

…The encouraging chat with a friend to enter, the training partner who meets for a morning run in the rain, facing a personal fear or anxiety, overcoming an injury, generous donations to a cause you care about, a way of remembering or honouring someone dear, being boosted by a cheer from the crowds, being offered a jelly baby by a random resident of one of the streets.

On the evening of the Run Reigate Run Club, a magic moment for me was when choir members Hannah and Lynette led the choir, while I turned around to include the runners in “Don’t Stop Me Now”.

In turn, the runners themselves joined in with enthusiasm, even after their gruelling training session!

On Sunday 18th September Include.org will help to create some magic moments at Run Reigate.

We have a stall in the event village, our inclusive choir will perform and we’ll raise awareness of inclusivity. Thank you to everyone who is already onboard.

If you are local, but not involved yet, could you help or just come and support us? Please let us know.

We can offer reduced fee places to runners who would like to raise money for our charity, and we’re hugely grateful for all fundraising efforts.

Find out more here .

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager

Something about The Include Choir

We have exciting developments here at Include.

This summer, very soon, we are launching a new choir!

We continue to build the original Include Choir (with rehearsals in Redhill), The Include Choir Online is still here too so people can join us on Zoom or Facebook live. If outdoors activity is more your thing, you can join our Stroll and Sign sessions…but right now we’re busy adding a new Include Choir group, which will rehearse in Epsom.

Both choirs will perform at community events and conferences in various locations across Surrey – and in other places like London. Not just in Redhill and Epsom.

You can find details of what is on and when on our website.

Easy Read – explaining about The Include Choir

As we start to introduce a whole new group of people to The Include Choir, we’ve been thinking about how we explain who we are and what we do to people who don’t know Include.org

To help with this, the Include Champions Group took a really close look at how we talk and write about Include. Even to the point of discussing if we use a capital G on the word group when we say Champion’s Group!

We double checked which of the accessible fonts is the most popular and we decided on Sofia Pro, because we like it and it is Dyslexia-friendly.

We also took great care to select the best photos and graphics to enhance our next FREE Easy Read which – you guessed it – is all about The Include Choir! An audio version is also available on soundcloud.

The things that make a big difference

Some people might think we’re “just a choir” – BUT a lot more goes into championing inclusive communication than just getting together to sing.

The little details that enhance inclusion and participation matter as much as the big steps forward – like launching a new choir. And without volunteers, none of this can happen – the big or the small.

We want to once again congratulate and thank our amazing volunteers who have been recognised as some of the very best with the MBE for volunteer groups – the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service!

If you would like to join or volunteer or have any questions or suggestions about the new choir or anything else, please let us know by commenting below, via our social media or emailing info@include.org

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager