In London, there are far more nonprofit organizations seeking volunteers than there are people willing to give their time to them. As a result, if you decide to do some volunteer work in England's capital, it's all the more important that you choose a truly worthy organization.
That's something that became clear to me as I found myself seeking a meaningful volunteering experience in London not so long ago. My online search led me to the website of Poetry in Wood and its self-description as "a person-centered creative environment for people with learning disabilities that is kind, positive and values each person and their abilities."
As lovely as that sounded, I was initially a bit skeptical about my own personal skill set for that environment; working with people with learning disabilities sounded like it might be tough. But after my first day, I realized that at Poetry in Wood, no one sees any difference between one another. Everyone is there just to create art. They aren't there passing judgment on anyone.
Poetry in Wood runs training workshops in wood cutting and painting for students with disabilities with the aim of selling enough of their creations to keep the organization going. My purpose as a volunteer was to chat with the students and help them color their designs.
Over the period of a month, I discovered that being there was helpful to me as well. The students taught me how to be patient enough to cut a thin piece of wood, while I had nothing to offer to them except a conversation.
On my last day, I managed to cut, burn and color my own wooden art. As someone with no real artistic talent, I was shy to show them what I'd been trying to make the whole day. But when I did, they all started clapping and telling me how amazing it looked.
At that moment I realized how just a small act of compassion and appreciation can play a precious role in one's mental state. And I realized how we don't cherish one another as we become more and more selfish by the heavy burden of our daily life tasks.
Poetry in Wood showed me that our world still has some positivity left to offer if we look closely enough. Make art, make people smile, talk to people and share a moment together and it becomes evident that we are in the end all the same. It is a far better way than alienating each other.
Poetry in Wood is an amazing place, full of amazing people with big hearts and big laughter that more people need to see.
(The photo posted here was plucked from Poetry in Wood's website.)