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Geri Oida on what being a Story Mentor Volunteer can teach a Creative Writing student

“This role at Little Green Pig taught me that you can help the community with your skills, and as a writer it made me reflect about having no limits on telling a story, no matter what your age, background, and knowledge.”

“As a Creative Writing BA (Hons) student, my expectations when I’m finding placement for the module LL532 Professional Practice and Placement is that the options are joining in the publishing or journalism where you’re prioritising editing and writing for the company. Joining as a Story Mentor volunteer at Little Green Pig taught me that you can help the community with your skills, as a writer it made me reflect about having no limits on telling a story- no matter what age, background, and knowledge you have in writing, there is always a story in you that you can tell.

“Fun fact about the charity is that the founder Ella Burns was inspired by an American novelist Dave Eggers’ TED Talk who co-founded the 826 Valencia in San Francisco, a shop that was made to “support overburdened teachers and connect caring adults with neighbourhood students who needed a little help with their writing”. This description extends to the interests of the team at Little Green Pig where they offer “children and young people the opportunity to develop writing skills and invest in their imaginations that can truly change their lives.” They have different clubs during term time focusing on different themes and projects that the young writers will work on alongside workshop leaders and volunteers.

“I was only able to do consistent volunteering at one workshop called the Monday club that is based in Whitehawk library which consists of a tight knit community of wonderful children, their diligent workshop leader, and wonderful fellow volunteers. Last month we did a project called ‘The Puppet Show’ where the children were to create a story around the prompt ‘Into the Journey in the Unknown’ using their own puppet characters. These six weeks project was a fun experience as you get to support them build their characters with descriptions and appearances while also thinking on their journey. After that, they get to craft their own puppet characters from scratch. To finally see the end products of their work filled me with joy as the excitement showed in their faces.

“Stating this you would ask ‘how can a writer like you can engage in a community like this’ and the answer is having that opportunity to be in a supportive environment where you can learn new skills while also expanding your perspective in writing. Believe me, the children taught me a lot about the enjoyment of creating your ideas rather than worrying too much about the finished piece.

“This project taught me that there is no limit on what you can write and express. Personally, one of my worries when writing my stories is that it’s not ‘complex’ enough to be seen as interesting. We have so many wonderful and existing writers that I feared that my stories wouldn’t be heard anymore, but hearing different ideas during the workshop and hearing them present theirs made me realise that there’s always a space for anyone to freely express themselves. Their stories and openness when giving ideas made me reflect on myself as a writer, that while my worries can exist, I shouldn’t dwell on it longer that it disrupts my own creative freedom. Write what you like, write what you know and write because you can! This course helped me realise that no matter my background, language and age, there are always so many paths and perspectives that are waiting to be written!

“If you’re interested in helping children and young people with your own creativity and knowledge in writing while also eager to hear from them their stories and inspirations, then volunteering at Little Green Pig is for you. As it is more for supporting the community, it helped me a lot as an inspiring writer who wants to pursue in the field of children’s literature.”

By Geri Oida, Creative Writing BA(Hons)

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