Therapeutic felt making
I'm working at University Hospital, Coventry and Warwickshire currently, as an NHS Volunteer, working with the patients doing felt making workshops. This is probably the most rewarding work I've ever done.
On my lunch break I sit in the restaurant eating my jacket potato whilst 'What's in the Attic' is on the TV with subtitles. Consultants read the paper with their briefcases and freshly pressed shirts, doctors and nurses sit in groups catching up with texts and updates on their phones, glad to have a breather, with stethoscopes around their necks. I wonder what all the other people have been doing- the uniforms tell the story.
This is a different environment for me, so different to schools and staff rooms I've been in. This feels more urgent and tender and it's getting right to the heart of it all- life is happening right in front of you- it is heavy with emotion in a hospital.
Back on the ward I am cheery and calm, talking to the patients and keeping a distance yet showing them how to create, and explain the activity. It is just wonderful doing something for the well being of others who so desperately need some interaction, although the activity rooms are well set up for hobbies and do lots of creative activities. Often though, patients are reluctant to come and join in with my activity, for it is the fear of the unknown, and they need much encouragement which can be very frustrating.
I've worked with patients in the older wards, where a lot of the patients have dementia. Some don't. The older patients have stories to tell, giving snippets of days gone by, about childhood pets, vegetable patches, beloved husbands going to war, one even receiving a Victoria Cross from fighting in Burma, and all of them wonder when they are going home. This all comes about through laying out the fleece on the mats, through the conversation. I encourage them to keep going and some want to; others don't see the point.
So I am there as a distraction, to keep them busy, and hopefully shift their mind onto being productive and feel re-energised from doing the activity. Whatever the journey through the felt making process the end result with it's surprise factors never fails to delight- and it's that that is the key- it brings out the child in the patient, and it kind of restores their faith in their ability to produce something worth any recognition. In a place where self- worth and confidence is low this goes a long way. It's that feeling of creating something, achieving something that I seek in myself to make me feel satisfied with my own work, and bring about joy in others- and it surely is evident in others in the patients I have worked with in hospital.
I have also done a session in the children's ward, where the children did some beautiful felt work. See the picture below with the cake and ladybird ! You can keep up to date with my Facebook posts and twitter posts- just see the link at the top of the page.
Felt making, as an activity it's wonderfully therapeutic- for the patient, for the teacher, for the nurse, and for the visiting family who have something different to talk about on their hospital visit.