The first group of “mentors” arrived in Columbus, Ohio a decade ago without a clue what might result from our week-end Veterans to write, and helping guide and support their efforts. It’s no exaggeration to say that we came away from the experience staggered and transformed. The bonds we formed were immediate and deep. Many of us remain friends with veterans we met that week-end. The privilege of being trusted by men and women from backgrounds so entirely unlike our own, the thrill of watching them light up at understanding how the deepest and most sensitive moments in their lives could be expressed and mastered with the use of language, and just the sheer good fun of laughing and sharing with them – the entire experience convinced us that the WGI was onto something we had to develop further.
Since then volunteers of the WGI have mentored Military Caregivers, medical personnel who deal with wounded warriors, and most recently, building from our work with the military, we held a workshop with victims of Hurricane Sandy. We are now exploring workshops with first repsonders to violence, and those wrongly incarcerated for crimes, and later exonerated.
What these people share are an experience of life heightened by exposure to extreme events. What we bring is a conviction that writing is a way to honor the most deeply subjective parts of one’s being that may have been bruised or wounded in coping with these events. What we gain is a sense that our skills (writing) are enormously valuable to people hungry to learn them, and even more significantly, from a writer’s point of view, we are granted a chance to share other people’s personal experience, and as writers to exapand our understanding of the world.