The fine art of volunteering

Brought to you by Volunteer News

Macmillan volunteers are crucial to delivering a broad range of innovative Direct Volunteering Services for people affected by cancer across the UK. Middlesbrough’s Art for You service is one of the most unique and creative, providing weekly art sessions that offer face-to-face emotional support and befriending to people affected by cancer, including carers. Volunteer News spoke to the service’s lead volunteers to find out more.

The Middlesbrough Art for You Direct Volunteering Service is an emotional support group designed to help people affected by cancer feel less isolated. Based at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, this volunteer-led service offers relaxed weekly art sessions on everything from drawing and painting to textile work. As well as giving service users the opportunity to develop new skills, the group also provides a safe and accepting space for sharing cancer experiences.

'We offer people affected by cancer a listening ear,' says Sue, one of the Art for You lead volunteers and the coordinator of the art activities.

'If a service user has had a really bad week and wants to talk about it, the volunteer sitting next to them at the session will be there to listen and offer emotional support.

'We started off with lino printing and card making, nobody had tried those before and they all thoroughly enjoyed them. After that I led sessions on ceramics, as I’m a ceramicist myself. It was great to be able to share my skills.’

Making a difference

Seven volunteers of all ages, including the two lead volunteers, make up the Art for You team. They don’t all have backgrounds in art, but they are all united by an interest in the subject, as well as a desire to make a difference. Their reward is knowing that this unique type of service provides a creative distraction for people affected by cancer at a time when they may feel most vulnerable.

'Service users tell us that attending the group has given them more confidence to do things,' says Sue. 'They look forward to the sessions and think of them as their "me time". There’s always lots of fun and banter, and we try to make it as light-hearted as possible.' 

'People have put their holidays back in order to come to the group,’ adds lead volunteer Peter, who heads up the befriending side of the service. 'They tell us they find it relaxing. Because we’re not medical professionals, we normalise the experiences of service users by treating them like human beings, not cancer patients.'

Our service users have awful things to deal with so, as volunteers, we’re just pleased to be able to help them in some small way.

Sue, lead volunteer (pictured above)

Life-changing support

‘Our service users have awful things to deal with so, as volunteers, we’re just pleased to be able to help them in some small way,’ agrees Sue. ‘I get a real buzz from being involved. One lady told me that attending the group had changed her life. She said it had made her think of things differently and she really looks forward to each week. She’s been so inspired by what she’s learnt in the sessions that she’s now making things at home with her children. She’s getting so much out of it, and that makes me feel good.’

If reading about Art for You has inspired you to get involved with one of Macmillan’s fantastic creative or emotional support services, why not search for one today on the Volunteering Village?

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