Making a difference with stroke survivors

As the Stroke Association’s public awareness week campaign, ‘Give A Hand’, draws to a close today, the Verbal Arts Centre’s Literary Guide, Susanne Stich, has been reflecting on the continuing role of our Reading Rooms in helping make a difference to the lives of stroke survivors.

Picture for blog story Making a difference with stroke survivors

“We have run Reading Rooms with various stroke survivor groups, including the Stroke Association Derry, Lisburn and Belfast, but also Chest, Heart and Stroke in Derry and Limavady.

“Over the last year our groups in this sector have read stories and poems from all over the world, ranging from Bruce Chatwin, Tove Jansson, Brian Keenan and Oscar Wilde, to Mary Oliver, R.M. Rilke, Rumi and W.B. Yeats.

“The amount of positive reactions from the stroke survivors themselves, but also feedback from carers and other support staff have been astounding, illustrating how Reading Rooms can make a difference to people’s lives after a stroke.

“The fact that we usually encourage our groups, after our volunteers have read out a story and accompanying poem, to read the poem out again themselves, has taken on new significance with our stroke survivor groups, considering that speech rehabilitation is a key aspect of stroke recovery.

“While we generally don’t single anyone out or put our participants under pressure to read aloud, there have been numerous Reading Rooms during which stroke survivors volunteered to read the poetry themselves, and even said to us afterwards how much they enjoyed reading aloud as part of a group.

“One of the most memorable and poignant examples was a session during which we read Roger McGough’s well-known poem ‘The Sound Collector’. One of the stroke survivors recited the last stanza a couple of times, commenting on how the last verse in particular resonated with him:

‘A stranger called this morning

He didn’t leave his name

Left us only silence

Life will never be the same.’”

For further details on the 'Give A Hand' campaign, visit

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