On a summer day you may roll down your window and blast your favorite song, before you know it everyone in the car is singing along. At the onset of a calm autumn evening you may put on that quiet melody that brings you peace. The one that passes time with you in the kitchen and follows you and your loved ones to the dining room. There’s that one song that reminds you of your childhood. You can remember every word to it even after all that time. These rhythms and tunes carry you to a moment in time. They transport you to a different memory or state of mind because before you know it your breathing is rhythmic as you sing. You’re calmer or in touch with an emotion that you didn’t have words to express.
These experiences, that stem from a deep love for music, they are what draw Sandy Kraimer to Harmony, Hope and Healing (HHH) a nonprofit that aims to create a safe environment for individuals and families to heal through the power of music. HHH supports adults and children as they recover from traumas associated with homelessness, incarceration, addiction, and isolation. This love for music that Sandy celebrates has given her a channel to not only help others cultivate these moments in their own lives but also to impact the world. She’s not trying to march to the beat of her own drum, she’s trying to engage others in a dance that they call healing and joy.
After volunteering for several years at a women’s shelter on the south side of Chicago, Sandy was introduced to HHH. While Sandy would volunteer at the shelter, the program would be going on. She was instantly amazed at how music could draw out emotions from women she was working alongside in such a beautiful, unique way. Sandy shared: “People who were so guarded would shed a tear or break down. Or if the music was really joyful, people would clap and dance.” There was a freedom in letting each song be sung, each rhythm be enjoyed.
Sandy and her daughter Ellie at a HHH 2019 event
Not only is there this magic in what music can do, there is also science behind the benefits of breathing. The HHH classes that are taught around Chicago focus on music and the breathing techniques used in singing and how that can calm nerves or make you slow down.
The more she learned about HHH, the more Sandy wanted to get involved. Through her church she was introduced to Marge Nykaza, HHH’s Founder and Executive Director. Marge crafted the program as she worked on her Masters Degree at Loyola University in 2000 after a professor challenged her to use art for social justice.
Marge enlisted Sandy’s help and leadership. Sandy joined the board in 2015 and served as Board President from 2018-2019. Through her involvement, Sandy learned that not only did the program help men, women, and children heal from trauma but also give back to the community. She indicated that participants often go beyond the program to become mentors and volunteers, invaluably adding to the program. As participants experienced personal growth, Sandy too noticed that she was learning so much about her own legacy and what ways she could uniquely create change in her city.
“Who would think music would help in this way? Explore new ways that you wouldn’t think of before to make an impact. I didn’t think of this until I came across it. Explore things you like to do to help those in need. If you are interested in it and passionate about it, it will become what you want to do to help the world.” Sandy insightfully commented.
In a crowded room on the south side of Chicago, you may find HHH leaders singing along or clapping to a beat. Or maybe, they are quietly listening to a participant share what any given song’s lyrics mean to them. They’re telling stories of the past and shaping a new one together but instead of paper and pen, they have voices and hands. There is a rhythm Sandy and volunteers like her have found at HHH, and as their voices synchronize with those around them, from all different walks of life, they know they have found their choir.
Sandy loves music and she loves using it to bring a new song to her city of Harmony, Hope & Healing.
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