Minister of the Month – Petah Marian
Meet our Minister of the Month Petah. Petah is a dedicated writing mentor who brings energy and fun to our writing clubs, motivating even the most reluctant writers.
Name: Petah Marian
Volunteer role: Writing Mentor
Favourite story and why:
It’s impossible to pick one – anytime someone asks me this question I feel paralysed and my mind goes blank!
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I am an Australian who has been living in London for far too long. I work as a trend forecaster, which basically means I tell stories about the future and how we are going to live. I like dancing, reading and yoga and I don’t really enjoy running.
Why did you decide to volunteer with Ministry of Stories?
There are so many reasons! Someone brought me back a jar of dolphin tears from 826 Valencia in San Francisco many years ago, and I thought it was a cool programme back then. I had been living in Hackney for around five years and wanted to contribute positively to the community. Plus, writing has given me so much; when I was younger, stories were a way of escaping and understanding the world when things weren’t going so well. But it’s also been my way into a career that I feel tremendously lucky to have, which sends me around the world on fantastic adventures. I’ve been so lucky, and wanted to share that love for words and stories with other people.
Were you nervous about anything before starting?
I guess I was worried that it would be awkward, or that I wouldn’t get along with the other volunteers.
What has been the best experience of volunteering?
There isn’t really one thing. So I’m going to give you a list:
- One of the young people I was working with one Saturday wanted me to beat box for him to share his rap with the rest of the group. I did not want to beat box, so I said that I would give him a beat only if he wrote another verse. He went away for a minute and came back with a verse, so I had to beat box for him in front of 25 children! His rap was about inspiration and how much he loved the Ministry of Stories, and I nearly ended up in tears by the end.
- I’ve been volunteering with the Saturday group for almost four years and seeing the kids grow up is a huge privilege.
- One of the young people I’ve known for a while has grown up from being someone who you could not pin down and would run around and be incredibly disruptive (but really funny), to being an incredibly focused, thoughtful and really smart person (he was those things before, but they’re now more visible).
- It’s always amazing seeing the kids do things they didn’t expect to be able to. Seeing kids who are shy share their stories for the first time, and watching them over time as they learn to trust their voices in the workshop space is nothing short of magical.
- While I love the small things the most, seeing the kids achieve big things is very special too. Being with them when they launched their picture book at Penguin Random House was amazing, and seeing them be interviewed and sign copies of their books was wonderful.
What has been the most unexpected thing about volunteering?
Seeing how brave and kind the kids are, as cheesy as that sounds. Sharing your writing and public speaking are among the scariest things a person can do. Everyone at the Ministry of Stories has created an environment that encourages them to write and share their work – and the young people are always really supportive and say kind things about each other’s writing.
Has volunteering changed anything in your life?
I feel less worried about the future knowing that these kids are going to be in charge some day. Seeing them be brave has also encouraged me to be braver too.
Describe the Ministry of Stories in three words:
Inspiring, unique, joyous
What would you say to other people thinking of volunteering with the Ministry?
Don’t think too hard – it’s an amazing place.