Registered Kingston charity, Voices of Hope, has offered hope and support to people facing challenges in their daily lives through community choirs and well-being projects since 2019.
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic saw the charity rise to the occasion and quickly change direction. As it became clear that the virus was leaving many people suffering with the Long COVID symptoms of breathlessness, disordered breathing, fatigue and anxiety, they established the Active Breathing Course (ABC). The course helps attendees recovering from Long COVID or long-term respiratory conditions to restore lung function and capacity, as well as muscle support, using breathing and singing techniques.
Sarah Clay, founder and CEO of Voices of Hope, explains: “Voices of Hope aims to help anyone who might be struggling, whether recovering from violence and abuse, dealing with long-term mental and physical health challenges, facing financial hardship or breaking the destructive cycle of isolation and social anxiety. In all of these things, we believe that hope is the seed of change.
“As the pandemic arrived, we had to put all of our projects on hold and think about how we could continue best serving our local community. One way was by setting up the ABC, which in one year has helped almost 360 UK and 140 Kingston-based residents gain relief from some of their COVID-19 symptoms and other respiratory conditions such as asthma. It has also proved to be helpful for people struggling with anxiety.”
On the six-week ABC attendees learn valuable breathing and singing techniques to help manage symptoms as well as receiving support from course tutors and other attendees. The course takes self-referrals but people are also referred by GPs, clinicians at Kingston Hospital and physiotherapists due to its successful impact on people’s breathing capacity.
Kingston GP, Dr Annette Pautz, said: “So many people have had COVID-19 and have been left with on-going symptoms. It will be so important for these people, once they have had any necessary medical investigations and treatment, to be able to attend courses like the ABC programme. As GPs, the programme provides a valuable local service for us to be able to refer patients into to offer them further support in a non-medical environment and to help them get the best possible outcomes.”
Paul Cox, a local resident who has completed the course, added: “Even though I had been extremely fit and active, COVID had a severe effect on my life in that I couldn’t exercise; I struggled even to ascend the stairs. I was unsure whether attending the course would help me or not because it had been so long since I developed the virus, but the first thing I found was that I very much enjoyed being on the course because there was interaction with people in a similar position to mine. To my delight, I experienced change on a weekly basis.”
“I certainly have more hope for my condition since I did the course because all the symptoms have gone except for some of the shortness of breath which does persist. I hope that many people may enjoy the benefits from the course that I have.”
To find out more about the course, visit: Voices of Hope (voh.org.uk)
Voices of Hope is just one of the local services that can help if you have Long COVID. To find out more about the condition and a range of local services, visit: Long COVID recovery – South West London Health and Care Partnership (swlondon.nhs.uk)