10 Helpful Tips for Volunteer Writing Aides
Are you considering volunteering as a writing aide for the Veterans Voices Writing Project (VVWP)? Here are a few tips to help you get started! VVWP is thankful to you for being a volunteer. Let us know how else we can support you as a writing aide and your group.
1. Spread the word about your group. Put up flyers, ask fellow veterans, friends and family. Put a post out on social media asking for interested veterans. See if there’s a local veterans group that you can partner with.
2. You must be a good listener, be compassionate and always be ready with a pen and paper (or recording device) for when a veteran has a story or poem to relate.
3. Find a regular meeting place. Some places might include a library, church, park or coffee shop as long as it’s an environment for conversation. Many times the patio just outside the VA Canteen is an excellent area…and those wheelchairs can pull right up to the tables. Fresh air and light-hearted talk encourage participants to share experiences and a bond is formed. Time always goes too fast encourage your veterans to write about their memories or dreams and bring it with them to the next time meeting.
4. You’ll be provided with any information you need to get started. If you have any questions, simply contact the VVWP office. Networking with other VVWP volunteers is also a good resource. Since 1952, VVWP volunteers have been supporting each other in this nationwide endeavor to assist veterans with writing.
5. A good tip to remember is that it’s perfectly all right to have the meeting even if there has been no writing at all! When the veterans realize that there is no pressure, it is then that they know they can relax and talk or write on many subjects. Invariably someone will say, “Hey, that’s a title,” or “Why don’t you write about that?” Then, at the next meeting someone will bring a poem or a story or a drawing on the subject covered at the previous gathering.
6. Writing aides don’t collect dues or monies at any of the gatherings. Often service organizations and/or individuals will generously donate writing materials (pens, pads, pencils, calendars and even envelopes and stamps). If you have people wanting to donate, direct them to the website or VVWP office.
7. A sense of family develops and your local veteran contacts and network begin to send “referrals” to the group. They may call you or leave a note at the VA, telling about a new patient who wants a visit or has some writing to submit. When you are contacted, take writing materials and a copy of Veterans’ Voices to meet with the veteran. You may want to take a recording device to get “instant” stories which you can have typed later.
8. Also, keep in touch with local veterans groups, veterans and their friends/family who want to write. Mail them a note or email them a link to the website and Facebook page. They may either bring, mail or email their writing and artwork to you or you can show them how to submit work online. Every veteran has a style of writing and drawing that is entirely his/her own. Encourage veterans to express themselves.
9. Follow the submission guidelines found in the magazine or on the website.
10. Being a volunteer writing aide is worthwhile, exciting and a personal kind of volunteer experience. Your talents, listening skills and heart are needed in this vital writing therapy.