Interview with Tara, facilitator of the Knitting Group
So can you tell me a bit about yourself, in terms of education, prior volunteer experiences, and whether knitting is a hobby or something you do professionally?
“I have a Bachelor’s degree in Education, so I am a teacher, but I currently work in Human Resources (Tara also volunteers with a Grade 1 and 2 class to gain teaching experience). In the past, I volunteered with Habitat for Humanities. Knitting is a hobby for me.”
How did you first learn about PARC?
“I was looking for a volunteer position, and had a friend on the board who suggested I visit PARC to see if it was a good fit.”
When did you decide to become a volunteer here, and what motivated you to do so?
“In January of 2010, when I needed to do a community-based project for school; PARC seemed like a great place. I contacted Victor with a proposal for a project which was to last one month, and it’s been two years, because of its success. What motivates me is that it makes a difference, and I like feeling that I am making an impact. I also feel that it is mutual, that the members are also having an impact on me. This means a lot to me, like I would be devastated if it ended.”
So the concept for the group was yours?
What goals did you envision for the group when it first began?
“Well there was the project, and then the expectations of the school’s project. So one of my goals, personal goals, was to get involved, but (there was) also the outcome of the school’s project, which was to have a community project and to raise awareness in the community. So we did a showcase at the end, to show what the members had done. We didn’t have a lot of people come in; I think it’s hard to get people to come in. I was still trying to figure out how things worked around here. I tried to spread the word for the showcase by putting flyers in different establishments, but I wasn’t too successful. I wasn’t sure how to engage the community, at that point. I didn’t ask the staff; I was working independently of the staff at that point, because it was a school project. I have operated very independently here, and I think that actually generates success: members feel comfortable, because we are autonomous.”
What is the structure of the group?
“It is facilitated, but there are no predetermined lessons. Members bring in their own projects, and I figure out what help they need. Whichever person that is, that stretches me, so members have to be patient; because they are working on different projects, it’s difficult to reach everyone.”
Is there ever a specific focus?
“I have said to members that if they want to learn a a certain stitch or pattern, I would do that in a smaller group, but everyone’s at a different level, so I wouldn’t want to push something on people, I wouldn’t want to say here’s something for regular knitters and other knitters are more advanced.”
So people are working at their own pace?
“Yeah, and I like that, and I think that is part of the reason for the group’s success. I think that members can support each other as a result of the different levels; members can help each other, if I am helping someone else.”
Have you worked on any special projects?
“Yarn-bombing, which is really yarn-graffitti. I was teaching at a craft store and they were hosting a yarn-bombing event, and we went on an field trip to the craft store so the group could participate in the event and contribute to it. On the way back, we decided to celebrate Mad Pride Day, which is a celebration to raise awareness about mental illness, with yarn-bombing; we thought how the knitting group could contribute to the event was to yarn-bomb the staircase. We didn’t ask, we just did it. It took four weeks for members to prepare.”
What are the benefits of encouraging people to express themselves creatively in a social context, like this group?
“In its social context, this is a major support group. People come here because it’s inclusive and they feel welcome. The vibe is good, negative comments or energy is not welcome. There are men and women here; we don’t turn anybody away.”
So the group has an additional function, apart from teaching or assisting people in learning how to knit and complete knitting projects?
“Yes, a social function, and from a creative perspective, we all share different levels and kinds of creativity.”
What do you derive from your involvement in this group?
“I don’t know how to describe it. It’s a good feeling. It’s fulfilling. I gain a sense of belonging that is shared. I don’t feel like staff, but one of the members.”
What do you think members take away from their involvement in the group?
“The same thing: a sense of belonging, friendships, shared creativity.”
Are there any special experiences that you can recall?
“James learned how to knit in five months, and created a huge banner of the Canadian Flag. All of the different firsts; there was a guy whose first project was a baby blanket. People are scared to do things and then they finish their first project, the sense of accomplishment they feel. All the different accomplishments.”
What does being a volunteer mean to you?
“Someone told me I should be paid for what I do here, but I would never want to be paid. This is something I am very committed to. I wish I could do it full time.”
Interview conducted by Robyn Bell.