The Best Years Of My Life- Ray McAlary, Footscray Sings · Creativity Australia
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The Best Years Of My Life- Ray McAlary, Footscray Sings

Late last year my Fiancée, Denise, and I were invited by friends to attend the ‘With One BIG Voice’ Concert at Melbourne Town Hall. We were singing with a Community Choir at the time but that Choir had lost its direction and no longer was fulfilling our needs. We left the Town Hall that day with a firm commitment to be part of the family that is ‘With One Voice.’

What inspired us, apart from the beautiful music, was hearing the stories of Choir members of how the program changed their lives, gave new Migrants a place where they were included, helped struggling people find the education and employment they needed to fulfil their lives, and treated all people equally.

My background has included 32 years helping people find jobs, specialising in the employment of Migrants and people with Disabilities. I have involved myself in Community Organisations for many years. Denise has a talent for including lonely and needy people in her life. Here was a beacon shining its light for us. We joined ‘Footscray Sings.’

Singing has been part of my life as long as I remember. I love to sing solo or in groups. As a Choir, there is the added advantage of performing and brightening the lives of people for whom we perform. I get a buzz out of creating enjoyment for others. If I can make a slight change in the lives of other people, I have made my life worthwhile.

‘Footscray Sings’ is a very happy, friendly group that includes anyone who comes along. We have people from various Ethnic backgrounds, and a wide age spectrum. What binds us together is the love of singing. Our Conductor, Bridget, is an effervescent person who brings out the best in us without seeming to push us hard, but we learn things very quickly. I love this atmosphere as Bridget’s upbeat style helps me to bring out the best in myself and challenge myself to achieve more in my music.

I think the main benefit I get from Footscray Sings is good mental health. Whatever worries I have in life seem to disappear while I am with the Choir, either singing or chatting over supper. When I leave the Choir I seem to take extra strength with me that will help me deal with any problems that arise. I am inspired by members of the Choir who have their health problems, but contribute to the Choir as if there is nothing wrong in their lives. We follow up on members who have not come for a few weeks in case there is something we can do to help them. One of our members was recently in Hospital for a long stretch. When we found out where she was, one of the members went to see her with a gift, and a card signed by all the Choir. Just a little thing but it says, “We care for you.”

Since joining ‘Footscray Sings’ I have embarked on a Charity Fundraising project that has been on my back burner for nine years. I had wondered if I was capable of fulfilling my dream. Since joining ‘Footscray Sings’ I feel that I am capable of achieving anything I am prepared to put my mind to. If others leading harder lives than mine can achieve, so can I.

I love my Choir. I love the Creativity Australia program. These are the best years of my life.

Written by Ray McAlary.

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