Charity appeals for Human Library volunteers

By Jessica Durston - 31 August 2021

CharityCommunity

Wiltshire charity Wessex Community Action is looking for people to volunteer their own stories as human ‘books’ to be part of a Human Library.

  • Chief Executive Amber Skyring

    Chief Executive Amber Skyring

The Human Library aims to help people to learn more about others’ lives and understand the challenges they face.

The Wessex Community Action charity is looking for people with stories and experiences that can be shared at events. The human ‘books’ will be people who have encountered challenges in their lives because of being stigmatised, says Chief Executive Amber Skyring.

She added: "The people who volunteer may have a lived experience of a physical, sensory or cognitive impairment such as ADHD, or autism, deafblind or are dealing with some other illness or condition such as HIV that causes them to be excluded or marginalised.

“Or they may be Black, Asian and mixed race, homeless, have suffered abuse, be LGBTIA, a young mother, long-term unemployed or be battling an addiction. We want people who would be willing, after some training, to share their experiences and help people to understand the challenges they face.  We are inviting residents to join a human library to help increase our understanding of the barriers that society creates intentional and unintentionally.”

Wessex Community Action said it will organise library sessions either online or at schools, libraries, universities, conferences, festivals and public spaces where groups or people can ‘borrow’ the books by putting questions to them about their life and the hardships they have to overcome.

Mrs Skyring continued: “A book is a person who volunteers to represent themselves based on their personal lived experiences and can answer questions from ‘readers’ to help challenge what is being said, told or understood.

“They are there to help shed light on the facts as they know and experience them because we want to help people understand one another, challenge their own often unconscious bias, overcome stereotypes and help build a more tolerant, inclusive society where no one is left behind.”

Anyone interested is being invited to apply to become a book. The individual may then be invited for an interview and, if accepted into the library, undergo training. The Wiltshire charity said volunteers are expected to commit for no more than one day a month but no one is compelled to attend every event. Wessex Community Action say volunteers will be asked to give their services for free but may be entitled to travel expenses.

Mrs Skyring said: “The kind of people we are looking for are like an open book and have valuable experiences that readers could benefit from learning about. We want them to be motivated to help challenge stigma and stereotypes through dialogue and conversations.”

“We hope people will want to volunteer so they can help others understand what they have been through and the trials they face every day. This is about raising awareness of residents who have those lived experiences, increasing awareness, understanding, tolerance and acceptance, and ensuring our communities are more diverse and celebrated for it.”

The Human Library concept began in Denmark 20 years ago and has been licenced in 80 countries. Across the world many companies use the libraries as part of their diversity, inclusion and equality training.

Wessex Community Action has acquired a licence for Wiltshire and is looking for volunteers from all over the county.

Those wishing to apply to become a book in the Human Library can go to wessexcommunityaction.org.uk/human-library-want-to-be-a-book/ or call 01722 326822.

More information about Human Libraries can be found at humanlibrray.org.

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