The Alyth choir that helps refugees to feel at home

The singing group was set up by the synagogue to help refugees adapt to life in the UK


The Alyth Drop-in Choir, which is made up of refugees from diverse countries and backgrounds (Photo: Cheryl Brodie)

A synagogue choir which was founded for refugees has been credited with helping its members settle into their new country.

Set up in 2017 by Cheryl Brodie, the Alyth Drop-in Choir in north-west London is made up of refugees from different countries, faiths and cultures, as well as volunteers.

Its aim is to build confidence, understanding and friendship among its singers; to help with integration, combat loneliness and improve English skills.

Malika, a refugee from Algeria, learnt about the choir from a friend and has been singing in it for more than five years. “When I sing I’m happy,” she told the JC. “Since I was a child, I have loved to sing. And I’ve learnt how to speak English. It’s been a good benefit for me.”

For Malika, the choir has also enabled her to fight the loneliness she has faced since uprooting to the UK 20 years ago. “Here, in this country, I live alone. We don’t talk much, we are not with family, and we have a lot of stress — we face a lot of things. As my English is not enough, sometimes I don’t know how to explain what I want. When I sing, I can express myself.”

She also goes to make friends. “People are smiling, so I feel good. I like choir first because I like to sing, and second, I feel happy. At first I was shy, but the choir has given me confidence. I’ve been with them a long time and every time I go there, I feel more happy than before.”

Choir director Vivienne Bellos MBE and a long-time member of Alyth Synagogue has said it was a “privilege” working with the members. “They are so warm and loving. They started as a very disparate group, but music brings people together. Singing is so health-giving, and they go out from an hour’s rehearsal singing, smiling and happy. If music can bring some happiness to their lives, then I’m happy.”

The choir is part of the Alyth Refugee Drop-in, a volunteer-run charity run at the synagogue by Brodie with the support of Rabbi Elliott Karstadt, that helps refugees to thrive in London under their banner of “one community helping another”. The charity promotes social inclusion, helping refugees to get to know the capital, learn new things and improve their lives through the choir, workshops and outings. Most attendees have been granted leave to remain in the UK.

The Alyth Drop-in Choir offers £10 travel expenses to refugees and a light lunch. No singing experience is required.

The choir is now looking for volunteers and new members to sing and help with the lunches they also provide. ​Its next rehearsal at Alyth Synagogue on Sunday 25 February.Those interested in joining or volunteering should contact

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