Reader Story: Zena, Volunteer
I live by the sea in Folkestone in Kent, with my Autistic brother and my dog Basil. I have a chronic illness and 18 months ago, I made the decision to leave my job, take some time out to manage my symptoms and to create a better lifestyle for myself.
Whilst recuperating I rediscovered my passion for reading. As a child I loved getting lost in the stories of Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie. I've carried that love of reading with me into adulthood and although at times I've lost touch with it due to illness and lack of concentration, I've always returned to the wonderful embrace of books.
Some books really speak to me, connect with my situation and help me through difficult times and others are great for escapism - like Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris, a brilliantly compelling read which was impossible to put down. I also really connected with Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls as I experienced a lot of grief as a child and wish I'd had this book to read then.
"I found it so powerful that I was still able to connect with those feelings of grief - it felt very cathartic. This was part of my motivation to set up my own project to help others."
Reading has been so important and helped me so much, I wanted to share that experience with others. I set up Reading for Wellbeing to work with vulnerable groups, using Shared Reading as a tool to help people discuss, process and get a different perspective on their own situations. The Reader's Christmas Challenge funded Read to Lead came up at the perfect time as I was getting ready to retrain and refresh my skills.
"I had a wonderful moment with an individual in the domestic abuse group I deliver while reading Jenny Colgan's A Very Distant Shore. A group member who usually doesn't say much asked what a refugee was, when I explained, they replied "that's like me, I'm escaping something and starting again." You could really see them thinking about it, processing the idea - they made a wonderful and very powerful connection with the story."
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