Minister of the Month – Katy Whitehead
Meet our Minister of the Month Katy Whitehead. Katy is a skilled writer and regular source of friendly support for our Tuesday club members. She’s always on the lookout for different approaches to best mentor children and her problem-solving has helped her become a top volunteer.
Favourite story and why:
I don’t really have a favourite. My unpopular preference, perhaps, is for stories that don’t end ‘happily ever after’. The danger with happy endings is they can fool you into feeling like all is right in the world. Sad endings remind you that things need to change, in the world; that for the story to have ended differently, things outside of the book needed to change.
Tell us a little about yourself:
I’m a millennial. I take things too seriously. I’m getting married next month.
Why did you decide to volunteer with Ministry of Stories?
I wanted to have something in my week that wasn’t about me and got me away from my writing desk.
Were you nervous about anything before starting?
Although I have a niece and nephew, who I adore, I was nervous about being around so many new children, not knowing the ‘right way’ to speak to them, worried about the artificiality of having to compartmentalise facets of myself. I don’t worry so much about that now. The children set the mood and tone, making it easy to be yourself.
What has been the best experience of volunteering?
When the children create something they are proud of, or when the finished product exceeds their expectations. Or when they come round to doing something they didn’t initially want to do, and end up getting something from it. In those moments you can see the change within a person, and that’s really special. I think adults are sometimes resistant to these moments of change.
What has been the most unexpected thing about volunteering?
I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve looked forward to it and missed it on the weeks when there was no volunteering.
Has volunteering changed anything in your life?
Before volunteering I would often approach problems from a mostly cerebral place; I would try to change someone’s mind through discussion or through pointing out the flaws in their argument. Volunteering has taught me about the importance of modelling behaviours. Working with children encourages you to ask open questions, gives you the opportunity to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and to admit you don’t always know an answer.
And it has given me writing games to play with my niece! Over Christmas she enjoyed creating coded messages.
Describe the Ministry of Stories in three words:
Fun, good, special.
What would you say to other people thinking of volunteering with the Ministry?
There are lots of different mentoring options, so see if you can find the right one for you. I prefer a regular session as you get to see the children’s long-term progress, but I’ve also enjoyed working with older kids on speech-writing, and creating graphic novels.