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The Right Key and Johnstone's Pharmacy, Dromore

The Right Key is a not-for-profit musical performance organisation that brings positive social change for people at the margins of society. They deliver ‘singing for health’ workshops to improve the health, well-being and quality of life of disadvantaged groups. They provide a range of community activities and services in their Recovery Café in Dromore. They open the Café one day a week for elderly participants and provide a hot meal and the opportunity for older people to meet and socialise.

For their Level 1 BCPP project they were funded to run a five session programme with recovering alcoholics to take place over five months. The five sessions explored health related issues relevant to the group and included the mental and physical impact of long term alcohol abuse, healthier lifestyles, the benefits of exercise, pharmacy services and over the counter medication.

Their Pharmacist Cathy Thompson-Murphy from Johnstone’s Pharmacy in Dromore delivered and facilitated the sessions and stayed for the singing workshops. Cathy said, “The joy emanating from the workshops was a clear indication of how much a person’s mental state can be affected by doing something positive.”

For their Level 2 BCPP project they worked with their Community Chords group, a group of elderly people who come to The Right Key for the Reminiscence Café and Lunch club. The goal was to bring about positive change to the lives of socially isolated older people. Research by Age UK shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health and has a physical effect equivalent to that of smoking or alcoholism.

Sheila Smyth, The Right Key, said, 'When I mentioned the possibility of working with our local pharmacist the group were delighted. They liked the idea of strengthening the relationship with local pharmacy, and learning about what was available to their specific age group. We came up with the project together, deciding who would participate and what topics we would cover so the group had real ownership of the project and were never just passive observers. The group has fifteen participants, with others arriving afterwards for lunch and the singing session.'

As they were already a part of Community Chords, they had bonded well as a group. Friendships had been forged through the singing, and there was a lot of fun and laughter.This has been a great way to address the wider issues affecting them including lack of social/family contact, lack of transport, low income and vulnerability. Confidence has grown within the group and they were really
pleased that Cathy the pharmacist participated in the singing activity with them after delivering her session. This is a great opportunity to learn, share and have fun.

The project included two performances by the group. One was the Council Christmas dinner event which catered for 90 people and Community Chords performed at this along with the pharmacist which was a fantastic experience. Participants from the Level 1 project now volunteer for the Level 2 project. They help clean and prepare the venue, prepare cooking and help with serving a healthy dinner and clearing up. They also collect some of the participants and leave them home. This support and encouragement is invaluable.

Sheila said, 'This has been a real lifeline for those who attend, with many saying that it is the highlight of their week. For many of the participants it is one of the times in the week where they have company and a proper cooked dinner.'

A participant of the project told us 'I now know that I am not the only one going through this, that makes me feel so much better. I don't feel alone any more.'