At the end of December we’ll be saying goodbye to Camilla, who has been our Volunteer Support Coordinator for the past three and a half years. Camilla has written about her experiences of being a part of the Creativity Works team during that time. Over to Camilla:
When I first started work at Creativity Works I planned to use the part-time contract of Volunteer Support Worker as a means of financing my creative and academic work for just six months before moving onto a more permanent academic placement. And here I am, three and a half years later, finally saying good bye.
The truth is that working in an organisation that values compassion and support – not just of the participants we work with, but of the artists, volunteers and the staff team itself – has been an incredibly refreshing contrast to life in academia. It has made me re-evaluate my priorities – what makes me happy, where my skills lie and what I really want to do with my life. This part-time role has helped me to develop my creative career to the extent that I am actually managing to make some money from it. This was always what I’d wanted to do but hadn’t thought it was possible. This kind of progression is the sort of thing we aim to support on every level within the organisation so it is gratifying to feel that it works on a staff level too. Somehow supporting others to achieve their creative ambitions makes it easier to support yourself! I’ll be leaving Creativity Works, at the end of this year, to continue my creative projects – Reading Movement, Poem Factory and my ongoing language work (on and off the page) – alongside a more hands-on teaching role as part of the newly established environmental arts organisation art.earth in Dartington, Devon.
My time with Creativity Works has been enriching and challenging. In these three and a half years I have supported the World Mental Health Day at Bath City Farm, helped co-ordinate the first manifestation of Fresh Art @, developed a more formal volunteer database and volunteer recruitment process, supported volunteers and artists, worked on evaluation and alongside our creative peer support groups, particularly Writing Space. It has been an immense pleasure to have Philippa Forsey as my manager. She has been an exceptional role model in her compassion, creative thinking, flexibility and commitment to working alongside and in partnership even in the face of the accompanying challenges. I have learned a lot about my own skills too – my ability to organise, co-ordinate, evaluate and review. My ideas have always been welcomed and the opportunity to realise these ideas as part of the organisation’s operation has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this job.
The most challenging and rewarding part of my role has been working with our creative peer support groups. I have been repeatedly amazed by the resilience, capacity for mutual support and openness of members to each other and to new arrivals. It has been a joy to see new members come in and contribute in fresh, new ways; to see how the atmosphere and trajectory of the group has evolved over time as an expression of its changing membership; and to see the dedication and commitment of the group’s membership – some of the long-standing members, have come almost every week for over 4 years. I feel very proud to have supported the launch of Writing Space’s first anthology – Together We Wrote – and to have been part of this collaborative, mutually supportive process. They have achieved so much over the years while I have been in post, it has been a privilege to help this work happen and I look forward to hearing about their continuing progress. Group work has taught me a lot about safeguarding, boundaries, transparency, resilience and resourcefulness. The group will always have the answers. The challenge has always been to find ways that enable the group to express themself. A lot of the time I have felt I was fumbling around in the dark, working with instinct and emotion as well as through training and discussion. This is what makes the work challenging and surprising – you never know the answer until it happens!
Working with Creativity Works has done a lot to correct my ideas of what qualifies as expertise. It has taught me that everyone is an expert in their own circumstances and that listening and empowering people to express themselves and to make the changes they want in their lives is the one of the best methods of support, to encourage progression and develop an improved sense of confidence and ability. This work has undone my faith in top down administration and improved my belief in close attention to immediate circumstance – using emotional intelligence as part of any reasoned practical response. This work calls on your humanity, to use your own experience of what it is to act, think and feel as a human being, in order to understand and respond to the challenges and conflicts faced by others. We develop skills just by virtue of being humans interacting with other humans. Everyday living demands a competency that we often take for granted. Some of this work can be exhausting and overwhelming but thankfully we have a very supportive team and the culture at Creativity Works is that no-one should have to hold a problem by themselves; every challenge becomes easier through sharing. I have appreciated this atmosphere of mutual support immensely.
I will be sad to leave this little team but excited to move forward. It is amazing how much is achieved in this organisation on such a small budget. This is the result of the dedication, enthusiasm and commitment of every staff member. I have every faith the organisation will continue to flourish and I look forward to remaining involved in a more creative capacity in the future.
Thank you Creativity Works! Here’s to a creative, prosperous and compassionate 2017.
Good Luck Camilla in all your future Creative endeavors.