The marimba music group is one of the community programs run by Hope Springs, a mission of the Banyule Network of Uniting Churches. It started in 1998 as a way to mobilise community support for people living with mental illness.
Jon Rumble, coordinator of Hope Springs, said the program aims to provide a joyful and supportive environment.
“It’s important to provide a safe space free from stigma, because many people here are folks with mental illness, a physical disability or an acquired brain injury,” Mr Rumble said.
The music group began in 2008 and meets every Monday afternoon. Approximately 20 people participate every week. They can choose to play on the marimbas (giant xylophones) or other percussion instruments.
Mr Rumble said no musical experience is necessary as the program is about encouraging participation and building self-esteem.
“It’s more about people having a go and not being embarrassed if they hit the wrong note,” he said.
“You can be involved as much or as little as you want. We’ve got some people just sitting back and singing along and hitting the drums. Others are really keen to learn the marimbas.
“You’ll sometimes see someone new to the group who won’t be involved for quite a while. Then one day they’ll start banging on the drums and the next thing they’re really involved. So you see people grow with confidence.”
Mr Rumble is assisted by more than 25 volunteers who coordinate the music, prepare food and provide transport.
After their hard work is done, the dogs spend the afternoon napping lazily as they enjoy the soothing musical melodies playing in the background.
The pets provide a comforting and familiar presence to the Hope Springs community and their playful antics are often a source of laughter and joy.
“People are struggling with significant issues but this is a place where people can have a laugh and have a joke despite the heaviness of what might be going on in their lives,” Mr Rumble said.
“A lot of the folks here have a hard time and very complex issues. Having that social inclusion and social support is such an important aspect of recovery.”
Mr Rumble has worked in clinical mental health for many years and believes establishing long-term relationships is central to recovery.
“We try to be a staple in their lives when other case workers come and go,” he said.
“I’ve been here for more than 10 years now, so I know the people here really well and it means I can support them better.
“It enriches my life too because I have the privilege of getting to know these people. I can be part of their support network and part of their lives, the same way they are a part of mine.”
Juliana, a regular visitor to Hope Springs, said it’s been a joy learning how to play the marimbas.
“I just love it; it’s something to look forward to every Monday,” she said.
“Music is something that engages people. You forget about life for a while and all your struggles.”
The music group is just one of many activities run by Hope Springs. There is also an open canvas art group, a drop-in centre, Thursday worship, a women’s support group and fortnightly outings. Find out more on the Hope Springs website.