Card making for men isn't something I ever expected to be doing, especially when those men are young men in a supported housing scheme waiting for housing.
To be honest I thought it was going to be terrible, that they'd hate it and nobody would show up. In fact it was a really rewarding experience for myself and it had a positive impact on the wellbeing of the young men who took part too, as we found out from their feedback...
We were asked to put on some craft sessions by the Volunteer Coordinator at a temporary supported housing scheme for homeless adults with complex needs.
She had decided to run craft sessions one evening a week in the run up to Christmas, with plenty of mince pies and hot chocolate donated from local shops. She wanted to get residents out of their flats "doing something", not isolating themselves at a time when the world is telling everyone it's a time for families and fun - what if you don't have any family or you can't get along with yours for various reasons, or you don't even have a 'home' in which to get all warm and cosy in at Christmas...
We have written before about the craft sessions we did for these guys (and the fact I was completely surprised that the sessions did turn out to be "card making for men", not women). Here I share the perspective of the Volunteer Coordinator as to why she thought crafting and creativity would be a good idea for residents with complex needs.
I wanted to run craft sessions because I thought our residents were bored. Also, it was Christmas and I wanted them to have something to take back to their flats because for some of them, the situations they're in, they don't often have much and definitely not Christmas decorations!
It helped people with social issues, brought people together for a bit of time away. It also let people ask questions and chat about stuff, whether about being homeless or the situations that led to it. It was a good way to open up discussion.
Making cards helped them re-connect with their families - they probably wouldn't think of going and buying a card but making their own, they spent hours on them and were proud of what they'd made for people they care about. It helped them put into words what they couldn't say.
Using printables meant that we could print off what we needed, and sometimes people would come that we weren't expecting so we'd just ask them which activity they wanted to do and print more.
I was surprised at how popular it was, and how many men came to it. Some of them really got into it, and wanted to do it after Christmas was over so we started back on Valentines Day until the sessions had to end.
They were gutted when it finished.
Although we eventually received donations of craft supplies, the card making and craft activities were mostly based around our printables as they could be reprinted as many times as needed depending on who came to the group and what they wanted to do.
Activities we completed in the group included:
Card making for men isn't as unusual as it may seem. Yes women might be the usual target audience for the craft industry but there are plenty of men who purchase our printables and as we found, even young men aren't afraid of making cards, which I assumed they'd just laugh at and walk out.
Maybe it was just our group who were receptive to it? I've seen been contacted by people who work in similar community and prison settings with young offenders who say the same - they do craft classes where men are making handmade cards and they love it, for the same reasons outlined above: it's a chance to throw off adulthood, 'play' and be creative, gives them something to do, they can express themselves and it helps them reconnect with feelings and family.
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