In this blog, our award-winning volunteer, Emma discusses her role as a Creative Writing Facilitator for the St Mungo’s Recovery College and why she recommends volunteering to everyone.
A bit about me…
I am a creative writing facilitator for St Mungo’s Recovery College, which I’ve been doing for two and a half years. Before lockdown I facilitated a two-hour session in London every week, then after the first lockdown hit we converted that to an online session twice a week for about three months, and now once a week, on Tuesdays from 11am to1.15pm
How did I start volunteering?
Long story! I went to university as an adult and gained a creative writing degree. When I graduated, I started volunteering facilitating creative writing workshops for charities including the 999 Club in Deptford and Salvation Army. Then I worked in a prison full time. My job at the prison had nothing to do with creative writing and my mental health suffered as a result. I had to get back to doing what I was good at, and what I enjoyed. A friend of mine had done some volunteering at the St Mungo’s Recovery College (now the Digital Recovery College) and recommended it. He introduced me so that I could begin to get back on track.
Every week is different.
I don’t follow a specific curriculum, I offer prompts to inspire writing. It could be music, stories, items, images – because we’re online at the moment students are able to collect items from their own space to write about which is great. I simply concentrate on providing a safe, nurturing space for students to express themselves freely.
I don’t call myself a tutor as I don’t believe creative writing can be taught. I call myself a facilitator; I provide students with the space to express the voice that belongs to them – you can’t ‘teach’ that.
Students sign up for the class at the start of term (the Recovery College usually has four terms a year) but then numbers will vary week to week. Last year we had 11-14 people attending on average, sometimes up to 20. Recently we’ve been starting our sessions with a dance which has brought a lot of joy and positive energy. We also do occasional meditations, which again is a benefit of being online. I wouldn’t suggest this in person because some students may not feel comfortable closing their eyes in public. Many students have expressed how much they enjoy meditating together.
The rewards are indescribable.
We’re so much more than just a writing class – we are a gathering of beautiful human beings. I wouldn’t name it a therapeutic or wellbeing workshop, but there is that essence to it because we are coming together and communicating from our hearts and souls.
The students give me so much; their ability to show up, their vulnerability, their bravery, how truthful they are in their writing. And I have the privilege of hearing all their voices!
To anyone thinking about volunteering, I’d say, ‘go for it’, you have nothing to lose. Be open. It’s not just about what you give… you get back what you give ten-fold.
Find out more about volunteering at St Mungo’s here.