Sidney couple REACHing out for diversity

Peter and Anne-Marie Brimacombe form new West Coast Reach Association

Anne-Marie Brimacombe working with others in Tobago in their REACH program.

Anne-Marie Brimacombe working with others in Tobago in their REACH program.

Peter and Anne-Marie Brimacombe are back from Tobago and are embarking on a new journey with their formation of West Coast Reach Association.

The couple left Sidney with their two kids Samantha and Daniel in 2009 for Tobago. Originally from Trinidad, the family isn’t new to the performing arts world. Anne-Marie taught people who were involved in the REACH Program, something the Brimacombes started there through what’s called Arts Alive Tobago.

The REACH program they began there has inspired their newest program for people on the Saanich Peninsula and Greater Victoria.

“We started off as a performing arts school because in Tobago, it’s a small island and not a lot of opportunities for the performing arts except for they’re rich in their own culture,” said Anne-Marie.

They quickly became a not-for-profit organization, where Anne-Marie had the opportunity to go into the country’s special schools.

“There are three special schools there because children and youth are not integrated at all into the community,” she said.

The pair then decided they could offer music programs at the schools.

“Working in the three schools was an opportunity to connect with the special needs community, and then we integrated them into our Arts Alive Tobago performing company, which we had already set up, and that has been a totally amazing experience,” she said.

And that’s what the Brimacombe’s continued to do. They helped those with special needs integrate into a group to perform in public.

“Anne-Marie worked with a girl who was very hearing impaired and speech impaired and even entered her in the Trinidad and Tobago National Music Festival singing classes,” said Peter, adding the girl won her class.

The pair are now back in Sidney for good and have just brought the REACH program here.

Forming their new West Coast Reach Association, guided by a volunteer board, they will be offering three performing programs beginning this month.

“There are a lot of excellent performing groups in Greater Victoria and on the Peninsula,” said Peter.

The programs include the Small World Children’s Choir for ages four to seven, the One World Children’s Performing Company for ages eight to 12 and the REACH! Performing Company for adults and youth 13 years and older.

“All the years that I’ve been teaching here and with big choirs and stuff, it’s not until being down there (in Tobago) that I’m asking myself ‘where was the special needs community?’ They never come because I don’t think they feel they’re welcome. I don’t think they feel they can do it…” said Anne-Marie.

She said it gives them the opportunity to come out and enjoy being part of a choir and show what they can do.

“People say ‘well I can’t sing…’ Well, I believe that we all have special needs and so within the group we encourage you and we challenge you to be the best you can and do whatever you can,” she said.

The program isn’t just for special needs individuals. Anne-Maire said it’s an integrated group for those who love to sing and dance and want to be part of a performing group, or become a mentor or volunteer.

While in Tobago, the couple also found that within their group, it was multigenerational, with children and their parents and grandparents coming together.

“I think I’ve learned that greatness is not just a measure of what you accomplish but what you have to overcome to accomplish, and most of these people overcome every day things that would be daunting,” said Peter.

The Brimacombe’s said the program is about celebrating diversity and that this program’s term will focus on Canada’s 150th.

The program begins Jan. 19 and rehearsals will continue to run every Thursday until the end of June, just in time for Canada’s big birthday celebration.

The two also write their own shows, with this one celebrating the beauty and diversity of Canada. And part of the show will be concluded in Sidney’s celebrations and hopefully Victoria’s too.

It’s just the beginning.

“Eventually we will be doing our own shows as well,” said Peter.

The rehearsals will take place at Saanich Commonwealth Place.

For more information on registration, people can visit westcoastreach.org/ or call Anne-Marie at 250-882-4339.

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