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Volunteers Week: From Group Member to Volunteer in North Wales

Written by Lisa Spurgin, 4th June 2015

"I think volunteering and community work is very valuable for me and also for society as a whole."

"Volunteering here is as much for my enjoyment as the members of the group...it’s not all about literature, but more about facilitating real and sometimes emotionally significant discussions which really pay off as people get to know each other and the different pieces."

- volunteer shared reading group facilitators, North Wales

Today for our celebrations in Volunteers Week, we're saying a big 'diolch yn fawr' to our volunteers in North Wales. Since our bilingual Llais a Llyfr/Make Friends with a Book project began in the region in 2013, our team of volunteer group facilitators have been vital in spreading shared reading across all six counties - in fact, they outnumber our two project workers by a considerable ratio!

United by a love for literature, our volunteers scatter around the region on a weekly basis - in some cases, making journeys that are 16 miles long - to share a carefully chosen and prepared selection of stories, poems and novels with communities, in English and Welsh, along with lots of tea and biscuits.

One of our volunteers really understands the ins and outs of shared reading - Mavis came along to one of the groups and became a long standing member. Having gained in self-confidence and feeling increasingly comfortable and enthused by the literature, she expressed an interest in volunteering with one of the groups and has been on board ever since.

Mavis tells us more of her journey from group member to volunteer in her own words:

I came to the reading group shortly after losing my husband, as I used to come to the library thinking it was the only place I had the confidence to go. Right from the word go I felt comfortable, I could talk easily with people and there was a kind of friendship right from the very beginning with everyone that attended. The group was an island of calm as I was still coming to terms with the ordeal and turmoil of losing my dear husband. With the group I was able to indulge in my passion of reading with some nice people who also had a love of books and reading. It also opened up new horizons, expanding both the range and scope of literature amongst everyone there. Reading aloud and sharing opinions with the group members has helped enormously in my self confidence gradually returning.

I was both happy and surprised when it was suggested that, perhaps, I should to go on the Volunteer Facilitator 3 Day Workshop at Llanberis.  As a very mature lady (in years) I took my courage in both hands and registered my interest. Fortunately I was accepted and completed the course. I think the group has given me the confidence to speak out. I never thought I could read out aloud, in public kind of thing. It was a big leap of faith for me, but I thought ‘I’ve come this far’, and you can’t do half measures; you must go on...and so I did.

I went into the training feeling rather nervous to begin with, but it was just like entering a bigger reading group. As a volunteer I'm hoping I can help people in the way that the group has helped me, that it will bring to them a different kind of literature that they’ve never thought of reading before and that they find interesting and enable them to go further with their reading.

In becoming a Volunteer Facilitator I am now able, in a small way, repay all the help, belief and encouragement the group and the organisation have given me over the last 12 months. It has brought back my confidence, given me new friends, who have invited me to poetry & book readings, a guitar recital in the cathedral and a local musical concert. So I now feel that my life has purpose and I have re-joined the Human Race. Thank you so very, very much!

Thank you, Mavis - and also to our many other fantastic volunteers in North Wales.

Find out more about our North Wales project and volunteering with us in the area on our website.

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