Katie’s StoryA volunteer’s adventure
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She couldn’t believe her eyes. At 21, Katie was no stranger to volunteering – but she had never seen an opportunity like this before. Art student and budding teacher, she loved kids and already spent most of her days covered in paint. What better way to get some hands-on experience than as a volunteer workshop assistant with Helium Arts’ Creative Health programme?
The training was great. Working with a group of would-be volunteers, Katie learned everything she needed to know about her role and responsibilities. There was even the chance to work through different scenarios together as a group. But as prepared as she was, Katie had never volunteered with children with long-term health conditions before, and she couldn’t help but wonder how she would do.
Her worries vanished the moment the first workshop began.
It all felt so natural. Supporting lead artist, Chelsea Canavan, Katie was soon helping to build towers, tie-dye and make marble designs using ink and shaving foam! One week she even found herself lying on the floor like a starfish – doing her best to hold still while a team of children traced around her, and joining in the laughter as the group’s medic took on the challenge of a lion.
“It wasn’t about painting masterpieces. It was about giving children space to create. The whole body was needed! Arms. Feet. Legs. Everything was used for them to make art.”
It was lots of fun. Artists, volunteers and children together – they were a team. Katie loved getting to know everyone, hearing the kid’s stories about school and life, and watching them discover new talents. The most important thing, she found, was to just be herself, and to give the children space to be themselves.
“There was this one girl. She had arthritis in her hands, I think. We were tying knots, and she was worried she wouldn’t be able to do it. We did it together. She really trusted me after that. As time went on, she realised she could do so much more than she thought!”
Looking back at these first six weeks, Katie knows she’s found something special. Because it isn’t just the kids who have grown through their time with Helium Arts. She has too. Not only is Helium giving Katie the confidence and experience she needs to become a teacher, it has also opened her eyes to new possibilities, including a career in art therapy.
“I didn’t even know these kinds of jobs existed! Helium has shown me what’s out there. It’s opened a door to a world I had never thought about before.”
Katie doesn’t have to make any decisions yet. Right now the priority is art school. She wants to keep on volunteering with Helium, of course. After that? The future is wide open.