Volunteer Spotlight: Reading Rooms for Older People (Frank Rafferty)

Frank is a well known writer and performer and has a great love of the written word. He is involved in a number of literary ventures including the Monday Night Cure at Sandinos including earlier this year, A Cure for Severe Burns to celebrate the work of poet Robbie Burns. As a Scottish man he brings a wonderful velvety voice to the Reading Rooms where the older people he has read with have commented that they “could listen to him all day”.


Picture for blog story Volunteer Spotlight: Reading Rooms for Older People (Frank Rafferty)

Frank has always loved poetry and stories – the Reading Rooms seemed to be a natural fit and he became a volunteer in 2015. Frank began with the training which he said was very useful as it clearly set out the role and helped him feel safe and secure as a volunteer going out into the community. He began by shadowing the wonderful Kathy Lynch up at Foyleville and noted how this gives a new volunteer a “clear way into the Reading Rooms, to see how others work and see how the training is put into place until you are ready to do it on your own”. Frank describes the Reading Rooms as being very rewarding “both ways”, that is; for him and for the older people he is engaging with and notes the importance of it for older people whose “world gets smaller and smaller” due to getting older or due to disabilities. “The stories and poems expand their world”. Frank has been volunteering in Foyleville Day Care Centre as part of the Older People’s Programme and describes it as a “special place” and that “the staff are amazing”. “Reading Rooms with Foyleville is a joy because I get to hear stories from the participants that I would never have been able to hear otherwise.” Two sessions stand out as highlights for Frank. Reading Moya Canon’s poem “The Train” resulted in such a wide discussion ranging from information about the whole network of railways north and south, the connections between Donegal and Derry to smuggling over the border, which evoked memories of being asked by their parents to smuggle items because the customs wouldn’t search children. Jamaica Kincaid’s story “Figures in the Distance” brought up stories about laying out the dead and how women in the community came to help out at the time of a death. Frank has fulfilled a number of volunteer roles over the years and notes that “It is so rare to get so much enjoyment yourself in a role. I love and believe in reading and love reading to people. I enjoy a really good story myself. The range of stories and poems by Susanne the Literary Guide at Verbal are such good choices. As someone who writes and performs reading aloud in the Reading Rooms, such an array of work helps me to be more thorough in my approach and helps me enhance the readability of pieces I perform. Reading such a variety of different stories and poems just seeps in.” Frank feels the simplicity of the model used in Reading Rooms gives access to literature for everyone and noted how it opens up discussions. He believes that the wonderful conversations that emerge from reading the literature enables others to tell their own stories “that might not otherwise be told. It creates that safe space for everyone to be heard”.


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