Jessie’s Fund is a relatively small charity which helps children all over the UK through the power of music. The children the charity works with all have either complex medical needs or special educational needs and disabilities, and the majority can’t communicate verbally. Music therapy and interactive music-making can provide a vital means of expression for these children, but it is not generally funded by education or health authorities, so without the help of Jessie’s Fund thousands of children would not have had access to the ‘language without words’ which can be so transformative in their lives.
Jessie’s Fund was established after the death at a children’s hospice of 9 year old Jessica George. Prior to being struck down by a brain tumour she had been a keen little violinist, with professional musician parents whose experience in the hospice exposed them to the need for music therapy there. With the help of Jessie’s Fund almost all children’s hospices in the UK now have a music therapist, and thousands of children in special schools have benefitted from music-making projects. The charity also supports children in hospitals and sometimes in their own homes through music therapy.
This is Aidan, one of the children for whom music has made a big difference. He accesses the services of the Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice, where we fund the work of the music therapist, Anouska. Aidan communicates through gestures, eye contact and some signs. Music therapy enables Aidan and Anouska to communicate on the same level – something he isn’t able to do through speaking – which not only gives him great joy, but also delights his family.
Jessie’s mum, Lesley Schatzberger, and Victoria Wood were school friends, and when Lesley invited Victoria to be the Patron of Jessie’s Fund, Victoria said that, though she got many requests which she couldn’t accept, she really identified with the work of Jessie’s Fund and would be happy to be a part of it. She was the charity’s Patron for 17 years, until her untimely death, and is acutely missed, but her influence continues through the much appreciated support of The Victoria Wood Foundation.
Music is a subtle and complex language, expressing so much more than words can – giving children who have limited forms of verbal communication a chance to express themselves. We all deserve that chance to show who we really are, irrespective of our bodily limitations, and Jessie’s Fund gives children that chance to be truly themselves and plug into all the pleasure that creating and sharing music can bring.