Presentation Title: The Ripple Effect: How Story Factory Amplifies Community Within the Volunteering Experience
As Story Factory increases the number of free creative writing programs offered across Western Sydney, we are finding the need to innovate and think creatively ourselves when it comes to finding volunteers to work with our students. At the same time, we have listened to the communities we work with to ensure our programs are delivering what they need, and not what we think they need.
To that end, we are embarking on three new volunteering adventures:
Engaging With Students – Training high school students to be writing mentors for local primary school students. This provides the primary schools with a larger tutor base from the student’s own community, fosters a level of responsibility and community engagement within high school students and, in a wonderful side effect, has provided an extra benefit for primary students entering high school as they now have mentors looking out for them.
Engaging With Parents – Training parents to be writing mentors for students in the schools their own children attend. As well as once again providing the students with mentors from their community that they already know and trust, this also helps with parental engagement at school, with parent / student relationships at home, and even helps connect community from different cultures who do not often have that opportunity to collaborate.
Engaging With Feedback – Being responsive and adapting to the needs of the students we are seeing. We are taking what we learn about the students and using that to directly inform the way we train the volunteers who will work with them. We are getting out into the field so we can see and identify areas of improvement, and we are constantly using this to refine our volunteer training. This ensures that we honour the time spent by our volunteers by making it as impactful as possible. More importantly, it ensures that our students are receiving the type of support that they need.
Craig New is the Volunteer Manager of Story Factory, a non-profit creative writing centre running free programs across Sydney and Western Sydney for marginalised young people. Craig has been volunteering and managing volunteers for the past six years after escaping life in the very disparate music and wellness industries.