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Westernport on musical mission with disability sector

Westernport on musical mission with disability sector

Westernport on musical mission with disability sector

21 November 2017

David Parker co-ordinates the weekly VAMP music program run by Westernport Mission Centre in the Mornington Peninsula.

By Jessica Morris

Westernport Mission Centre is giving people with disabilities a safe place to belong.

The centre’s Varied Abilities Music Program (VAMP) gives 60 adults, carers and family members on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria the chance to experience the joy of music, community and church.

The coordinator is David Parker, who took over in 2016 from Salvationist Stuart Lees, who started the program in 2013 as part of the Music Access initiative.

As a life-long Salvo and former music teacher, you could say the position came naturally to David.

“As soon as the participants arrive it just cheers me up,” he said. “Over two years, I’ve been able to develop some really positive friendships. Some of the participants just come running into the hall!”

Held every Tuesday morning, the group is made up of clients from disability services in the region. Funded by a private donor and the National Disability Scheme (NDIS), it caters for individual needs, encouraging participants to play, move or just enjoy the music.

The weekly meeting has cultivated a special bond between participants and their leaders. (Pictured right Disability support worker Nicole with participant Dale )

This means the program is routinely interrupted with song requests (everything from Ed Sheeran to the Chicken Dance), and gives them space to celebrate special achievements and victories.

David and his team continually see great results. Adults who were once afraid to enter the room have become contributing members, and many clients mouth the words and sway to the music, encouraged and assisted by their carers.

While VAMP may not be your typical church service, it is giving people in this oft-overlooked community the love and acceptance they deserve – and that is why participants love it.

“The majority of people probably would not fit into the church instantly. VAMP breaks down the barriers between the church and the community,” David said.

Over time, they hope to increase their engagement with Westernport Mission Centre Corps so attendees feel they are part of the greater Salvo community. Visits by the Corps Officer, Lieutenant Laronie Thompson, also help to build successful connections with the group.

“VAMP is a valued part of the community outreach mission of Westernport Salvos. The potential for integrating it more into the fabric of the faith community is challenging, but it is a positive step in the right direction,” David said.

The model also holds potential for other corps across the country that wish to engage with the disability sector.

“It is something that could add value where there may be a gap in the provision of disability services,” David said.

Westernport Mission Centre is thriving, because VAMP is transforming lives – first through music, and then by relationship.

“Participants arrive each week with excited expectation about belonging to a group. A place that encourages them to celebrate life with creative freedom and the fullness of joy as God’s created beings,” David said. “What more could we expect ‘church’ to be?”

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