Project Spotlight: Whale of a Time Wednesdays (WOATW)
Whale of a Time Wednesdays is a project run by Student Volunteering Cardiff (www.svcardiff.org). It is a fortnightly Club that aims to provide a space for adults with both learning and physical disabilities, as well as mental health conditions, to enjoy, relax and meet people. Asked by SVC to come down on one of the nights, I didn’t entirely know what to expect but nevertheless I was excited to find out. The event was held at Cathays Methodist Church;an accessible, spacious venue smack bang in the middle of Cardiff. For student volunteers working WOATW, I can only imagine the ease of walking to and from home due to the church’s student town situation. I was greeted at the door by the lead volunteer, Devon, who from my first impression seemed kind, caring and comfortable to be with, and later in the night told me of her responsibilities of organising activities and reporting any accidents that may happen. She led me into a room full of people sitting around different tables; one appeared to be for board games and another for decorating gingerbread biscuits shaped like Christmas jumpers. Immediately I could feel that it was very much a relaxed environment. I could see that people seemed close and comfortable with one another, all open to make friends and have a laugh
There were four volunteers there that night, though I was told by one of them that there were usually five of them working the event. They were all very welcoming towards me, and attentive and understanding towards the adults that attended. I spoke to two girls manning the biscuit decorating table, and both expressed high praises for WOATW and volunteering in general; the event being volunteer led was said to be a positive, as well as allowing flexibility. Beth, a masters’ student who has been volunteering for a long time at all different organisations, talked about how much she enjoyed spending time at WOATW, as not only was it a good way to meet people and gain skills, it was a relaxing break from the fast-paced stresses of life.
As for the service users, people appeared to be comfortable with the volunteers, be it to ask for help or close friendships that have boasted from regular visits. One beneficiary, who was a regular that was busily placing sugared snowflakes on her Christmas jumper biscuit at the time, spoke fondly to me of colouring and drawing as her favourite activity at the event, and charmingly even proceeded to spell out her name for me as I wrote it on my notebook. Meanwhile another beneficiary, of similar age to the volunteers who run the Club, was happily having competitive games of Jenga on the other side of the room. All in all, Whale of a Time Wednesdays was an interesting experience. During my one visit I got a feel of how casual the event was.
People, both attendees and volunteers alike, were enjoying themselves as they sipped on tea, having wonderful conversations and participating in some fun games. The event was obviously a pleasant time for all involved. Even I was having fun helping out one of the beneficiaries with their biscuit decorating and engaging in the activities!