Soldier On veterans strike a chord

By Colin Greef, Soldier On, Canberra

The Canberra Soldier On Music Group has been going for about 6 years and has a small group who meet every Thursday for a few hours. The group meets to play music and have a chat and a brew. The opportunity for these veterans to keep in touch with each other and enjoy the pleasure music brings gave me the idea for a community project that could help others.

The aim of the project is to reach out to the local community in Canberra, asking them to donate guitars and ukuleles to Soldier On members who would then repair them if necessary before giving them to veterans and disadvantaged children.

An interview on local radio station 2CC and an article in The Canberra Times followed with great success. The response from the public was beyond all expectations.

The group has so far donated almost 200 guitars and ukuleles to veterans and other organisations such as the Police Boys Club, an Indigenous club that teaches music to young children, a homeless shelter and many schools around the area. 

I and fellow music group member and Navy veteran Mike Hogan have spent many hours on the road visiting schools around New South Wales, donating guitars to students who show an interest in music but due to financial constraints do not have a guitar of their own.

The response from school principals has been very positive and Soldier On is warmly welcomed into the schools to meet with the students. We meet with the staff and pupils and have a singalong with the children but also speak to them about talking to their teachers if they have any personal problems. 

Shortly after the fires that devastated the NSW South Coast, we organised a tour visiting schools along the coast from Bomaderry to Eden donating guitars and ukuleles to local primary schools. Many of the children had lost not only their instruments in the fires but also their homes.

We have also visited schools in the west of NSW where drought has caused huge problems within the farming community. After a short concert from Colin and Mike, the guitars were presented to the children who have been nominated by the school principal. We also donated a few guitars to the school for everyone to use.

If you live in the Canberra area and would like to donate an instrument, or would like some advice about doing something similar in your area, please get in touch (cagreef [at] gmail.com).

Ex-service organisations and related not-for-profits are welcome to submit stories for publication by emailing vetaffairs [at] dva.gov.au
Image
Several middle-aged people standing on an outside deck, with five children at their feet clutching guitars.

Bomaderry Public School children receiving the guitars. They were all very enthusiastic and the school has paid for some lessons for the children. Soldier On personnel were made welcome by the school and by members of the Keith Payne Veterans Group in Nowra. Soldier On members are in grey shirts – from left: Mike Hogan, Colin Greef and Debbie Dimmock.