When Greg was in his early 20s he showed up at a homelessness service in Sydney, guitar in hand, and asked the youth workers there, “Do you have any use for this?” Since then, Greg has drawn on his love of music to bring joy, confidence and meaning to the lives of those with whom he works and volunteers.
Greg first began volunteering with SHM four years ago. A musician by trade, Greg co-facilitates an informal music group with fellow volunteers Frank and Shannon each Friday morning in the art room at Rooming House Plus Program (RHPP).
RHPP provides stable, long-term accommodation for 67 people in self-contained apartments with the support needed to maintain housing. Building a sense of community is central to RHPP and residents are strongly supported through the social inclusion program to be involved in activities in the broader community.
Gail Marie runs the art therapy program – of which Greg’s music program is a part – providing an inclusive and creative space for residents to get together and enjoy.
Residents come and go each week, practising their skills, learning instruments, and writing poetry and lyrics ahead of gigs they play three to four times a year.
“I don’t impose a structure on the program, we just go with the flow,” Greg says.
“I like to work in a collaborative way. I meet people where they are andleave my ego at the door.
“I treat people like people, not ‘clients’ accessing a ‘service’.”
“Through the program, I try to shine a light on their skills; skills which might have been buried or overshadowed over time.
“We bring out their strengths,” he says. “They realise if they can improve each week with their music, they can apply those skills to other areas of their lives.”
A few years ago, Greg took a break from volunteering to study Diplomas in Alcohol and Other Drugs and Mental Health, which he completed late last year. With a degree in hand, Greg hopes to continue working in these areas.
In his spare time, Greg also runs his own website, metalhealth.org, which he describes as a community initiative aimed at reducing the stigma of mental health and keeping the conversation going.
A busy man at the best of times, Greg says his sense of social responsibility is what drives him to give back.
“There are so many people struggling in the world and I can’t turn my back on them, so I help in the way that I can,” he says. “I believe what makes a meaningful life is how we choose to contribute.”
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