At the start of the pandemic, life was lonely for Alice Crestejo. Like for many others, Alice found stay-at-home orders and physical distancing challenging. So when staff at Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH) established a virtual singing program for seniors, it didn’t take long for Alice to jump at the opportunity to host it.
As an award-winning singer and performer with a repertoire of songs from the 1950s and 1960s, Broadway musicals, classical music and Italian opera, it was a perfect match. Organizing this program, however, did not come without its obstacles.
Prior to the pandemic, seniors would meet regularly at CNH for karaoke. Once the pandemic started, In the virtual version of this program, called Sing for Fun, seniors were invited to participate in a singalong, or even sing solo.
“To start the Sing for Fun program was not easy,” Alice said. “After finding music that people are familiar with and editing the lyrics of each song to match the music, I had problems transmitting the music and my voice over Zoom in a clear manner.”
“I tried different ways and [staff] even offered to buy a microphone for me, which I declined.”
CNH staff were “so kind,” said Alice but eventually, she had the system figured out. It took a few tries and a few classes learning to use Zoom but the result was worth it, she said.
Jenny Shen, Seniors Wellness Coordinator, agreed.
“[Alice] shared her singing talents with seniors and brought tremendous fun and happiness to those who were homebound and isolated during the pandemic,” Jenny explained. “When word spread, not only seniors from local communities came to join the online program, but also seniors from the lower mainland, and even from other cities like Toronto.”
“Those long-time-no-see friends, neighbours, and family members never felt so close to each other to sing, laugh, and celebrate together with Alice.”
No longer in isolation, Alice said she has enjoyed volunteering as Sing for Fun host.
“The past two years have gone by very quickly,” Alice said.
“I really enjoy doing the program as much as the participants,” Alice said. “It made me forget about the loneliness we were in during this pandemic.”
“CNH has been my sanctuary for two years. I am the one who should thank CNH for that opportunity.”