Lessons for Life – An Insight into the experience of Volunteering with Blue Teapot Performing Arts School
Blue Teapot Performing Arts School was founded in 2010 and offers a three year programme, delivering training in performing modules leading to certification in QQI Levels 2 & 3 for people with intellectual disabilities. The programme runs four days a week and offers a diverse and enriching range of modules to students. This course is no mean feat and students are challenged with an intense work load across the three years.
Due to the challenges presented on a daily basis support is fundamental in how students navigate their way through the course. The level and depth of support provides the scaffolding for the entire duration of their study and it is here that Blue Teapot’s volunteer programme plays an integral part not just to students but to staff and tutors on a daily basis.
The role of Performing Arts School Classroom Assistant involves a four day commitment working closely with trainees and tutors. What is required of a volunteer in this role is a unique quality of commitment that does not just involve hours in the day but one whereby an individual can commit wholeheartedly.
Blue Teapot has been most fortunate in receiving this sort of commitment from volunteers over the years, one of whom is a very recent volunteer, 21 year old Edel Mc Grath.
Having decided to take a year out before pursuing a career in Occupational Therapy, Edel got in touch with Blue Teapot earlier this year to see if she could get involved in their programme and has been providing support to the team for five months.
With no previous experience of working in the area of intellectual disability Edel felt daunted at the beginning as she knew there was a lot involved. Speaking of her willingness to take the plunge into the unknown she says “… sure if you never throw yourself in at the deep end you’ll never learn anything.”
This attitude has served her massively as she describes her experience with the performing arts school as one that has completely surpassed all of her expectations, stating “it’s been invaluable, not just for my career path, it’s forever”
It’s clear from speaking to the staff and tutors that Edel has made a massive impact and contribution to everyone there. One of the tutors whom Edel worked closely with describes her as an absolute joy to work with, hugely supportive and cooperative with amazing ability to see ahead of the ball all the time.
So what has made this volunteer experience such a memorable one for both Edel and those who have worked with her? It appears that support is something that all thrive on within Blue Teapot and most importantly within their volunteer programme. Many of the current staff have experienced the role of being a volunteer and know the importance of both giving and receiving support. When asked about this Edel simply says “You feel like part of a family here, you’re never alone”
Openness to learning exists amongst those involved, where people deeply value the continuous impact this can have on one’s daily experience.
When asked what she has learnt while volunteering in her role Edel points to the value of friendship. She explains that she was privileged to witness the depth of friendship in the room amongst the group of nine students, where someone was always there for anybody having a bad day or a tough moment. This inspired Edel to be a better friend in her own life and taught her what it means to really support someone. She also speaks of the joy in witnessing students blossom in new areas and being able to really see individuals shine.
It appears that a continuous circle of support and learning exists within Blue Teapot that all are nurtured by, particularly those unique volunteers such as Edel who come both willing and open to give and receive.