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Carrina’s Story: “it’s different, personal and wonderful all at the same time.”

Written by Rachael Norris, 26th March 2021

Carrina has been volunteering with The Reader since 2019. She lives in London and has been helping out on our Call On Me project which places people together to read one-to-one over the phone every week and is part of The Reader at Home - our Covid response offer. Here’s her story:   

I came across The Reader by accident really.  I was at an event where they had a stand and I got talking to the staff, who explained the work of The Reader and the whole idea of Shared Reading. It really appealed to me, especially because since retiring as a GP a couple of years ago, I’d been reading with children in a school.  However, following a major accident I was unable to continue with that and I really missed working with people, and I really missed reading with someone. So, I clicked on to the idea of becoming a Shared Reading volunteer, and I was trained in November 2019.    

After training, I took over a longstanding poetry group in a care home, which I really enjoyed but after six weeks the group had to close due to COVID.  I haven’t led a group since then but I have been attending a wonderful online group, locally in my area of London, which is held by two Reader Leaders.  Attending the group is great, but I felt I was losing any confidence in leading Shared Reading and then I heard   about reading one to one over the phone and the rest is history! 

Personally, I get huge pleasure from Shared Reading, particularly from reading one–to-one, probably because it reflects a lot of my past working life. More than that though, every meeting or every discussion is different. It's new every time. We see things differently and different points of view and other things come up. It's like the text we share is constantly giving and the other person is constantly giving too. So I'm seeing things in a new way, looking at them from a different angle that I've not seen before and it's wonderful.    

It can also be disappointing sometimes if the call doesn't go the way you think it's going to go, but then when I think about that there is always a reason. It's never mundane, it's never boring, it's never dull, and it's me.  It's opened up a world to me of texts and poetry, certainly with poetry, I've never really delved into that before.  

Through The Reader’s Call on Me project, I was put in touch with a gentleman who lives in the North of England.  He has a totally different background to me and different geographically. The difference is giving me a lot of pleasure: hearing about where he lives, the surrounding area and so on.  Our backgrounds are completely and utterly different. When I first spoke to him within two seconds of hearing his voice we had an immediate connection  ̶  he’s an amazing person.   

He isn’t online so everything is just speaking and I have learned to slow my reading and repeat things. I’ve also learnt not expect the same kind of reactions one would get when reading a text in a group or in person. What matters is that we both have an hour when we are immersed.  It's different, personal, and wonderful all at the same time.   

To be given the opportunity to volunteer on the phone project has been a great way to give something back to the community, especially during the pandemic.  It's one way where I feel I’m helping a person, and maybe that's the most I can expect to do.  My gentleman is always there, ready and waiting at 9.30 am for our phone call, every week without fail. I make sure I have everything prepared and make that call, it's a solid commitment and an absolute pleasure – he has the most glorious speaking voice, absolutely wonderful, I think he could have been an actor! 

The skills I’ve obtained during my volunteering are helping in other areas of my life: reading slowly, being ready to repeat the text many times, being patient and learning to wait for responses. I’m better at judging the pace of how the conversation is going. 

I’ve recommended volunteering with The Reader to two friends, one of whom has begun their training and another who is considering it.  I would say that you bring your own experiences and personality to it. It’s as much about listening as it is reading and connecting into what will bring some joy to that other person.  

I wanted to say that I think The Reader is fabulous –it's an amazing organisation and the skills they teach volunteers are terrific.  They keep plugging on, even through the pandemic, and I think that's part of what I love about it.  I’ve found the same with my phone calls, just keep going on and great things come out of it.  I love the sense that it's a long term project and seeing the response of people. I think it's marvellous. 

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