Limerick initiative shortlisted for Red Cross humanitarian award

The chambers' 2018 Sing Out With Strings event

THE Limerick-based Irish Chamber Orchestra initiative Sing Out With Strings has been shortlisted for an Innovation for Change award in the Irish Red Cross Humanitarian Awards 2021, which take place on November 28.

Now in its 13th year, the Irish Chamber Orchestra initiative Sing Out with Strings (SOWS) is a ground-breaking initiative that offers 300 schoolchildren the chance to learn music for free every week.

The programme, which is focused on the regeneration areas of Limerick, has seen over 1,000 children write their own songs and perform at events in prestigious venues and festivals around the county and beyond, making music an integral part of their lives.

Launched with seed funding from the University of Limerick in 2008, SOWS has been hailed as a model of social inclusion, giving thousands of children access to music education, and providing tangible, long-term benefits for participants, their families and the wider community.

The Innovation for Change award honours the “achievements of an individual or team who have had a humanitarian impact on society through innovation”.

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Pat Carey, Chair of the Irish Red Cross said: “It is important that we honour and recognise the crucial work that is being done by humanitarians and their ongoing contribution to Irish society, which serves as a powerful example to all of us. The Irish Red Cross Humanitarian Awards aim to celebrate these people and organisations, and highlight the amazing work
that they do.

“These awards are the highest honour given by the Irish Red Cross, in recognition of those who have dedicated their lives to exceptional humanitarian endeavours.”

Inspired by El Sistema, the Venezuelan model of music education, Sing Out With Strings provides pupils from Le Chéile National School, St Mary’s National School and Coláiste Nano Nagle Secondary School with free singing, songwriting, violin, viola, cello and double bass tuition, harnessing the power of music to develop pupils’ key skills, including concentration,
coordination, listening and teamwork.

In 2018, nine students from SOWS took part in the Sistema European Youth Orchestra summer camp, performing at London’s Royal Festival Hall and Bournmouth Symphony Hall with violinist Nicola Benedetti.

Many former pupils have gone on to join orchestral groups, win medals in competitions, achieve high marks in RIAM exams, or study music at Junior Cert level.

The scheme is a cornerstone of the ICO’s Community Outreach programme, attracting local and national recognition.

With the support of our many generous patrons including the JP McManus Benevolent fund, the scheme has expanded to include holiday sessions, summer camps, choirs and trips.

In 2016, thanks to the Musical Capital Scheme, SOWS was able to offer entrance to the Royal Irish Academy of Music Cara Award exams for all 5th class children.

In 2017, SOWS expanded to support children playing string instruments at secondary level. In 2020, Sing Out with Strings delivered over 100 hours of free instrumental tuition. The success of the project has inspired the Irish Chamber Orchestra to set up the Irish Chamber Youth Orchestra, which provides aspiring musicians aged 12 to 18 with the support they need to grow.

“I love Sing Out with Strings. It’s a place where we not only come together to play the violin, but we learn to express our feelings together. You don’t know what you’ll learn next and that’s exciting,” says 6th class student Meagan.

The prestigious annual Irish Red Cross Humanitarian honour nominated finalists across six categories. The awards recognise those who have had a humanitarian impact on the lives of others through volunteering, storytelling, skill sharing or fundraising and highlight the efforts of those who have given a voice to humanitarian issues. The work of the Irish Red Cross in Ireland, which was established in 1939, helps the most vulnerable people in Irish society.

The shortlist of finalists for the 2021 awards, which have been announced ahead of the live award ceremony on Sunday November 28, are the following:

–  Humanitarian of the Year: Ken Gibson, Tammy Darcy, Rory Halpin.

– Young Humanitarian: Saoi O’Connor, Harry Nolan, Joshua Deegan. Special mention: Zoey Coffey.

– Innovation for Change Award: Teen-Turn, The Shona Project, Sing Out With Strings.

– Digital Influence: Digital Charity Lab, The Shona Project, Fionnula Jones.

– Journalism Excellence: Felipe Lopes, – Maria Delaney and Michelle Hennessy, Donal O’Keeffe. Special mention: Katie Hannon.

– Corporate Impact Award: Hotel Doolin – Green Team Programme.

With almost 3,000 volunteers and 78 branches across all 26 counties in the Republic, the Irish Red Cross provides a wide range of services including First Aid (delivery and training), Youth Services, Community Support, Emergency Relief (floods & extreme weather), Migration, Lake & Mountain Rescue; and Prison programmes.

To date, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Irish Red Cross has delivered almost 15,000 food deliveries to isolated and vulnerable households and individuals, many in isolated rural locations. To assist the national ambulance service during the pandemic, the Irish Red Cross ambulance units have made approximately 1,000 patient transfers since March 2020 for patients requiring chemotherapy or dialysis appointments, as well as older people in need of GP or dental appointments.