Almut’s Story

I'm 24 years old and I was a residential volunteer at Orpheus over the last year (2018-19). After finishing my undergrad studies in Philosophy and French Literature in Berlin I came to Orpheus on a programme called EVS (European Voluntary Service) which is sponsored mainly by the EU. It's part of an exchange programme for students and young professionals who get a chance to study, work, or volunteer abroad for a year. The idea of an EVS is to increase language and communication skills and intercultural experience for young people through volunteering long-term in charities. I was given a catalogue by the German sending organisation, and that's how I first heard about Orpheus. I chose to come to the UK mainly to improve my English skills, but when I read about the Orpheus Centre it became clear to me very quickly that I could learn so much more than just a language! Growing up, I had always been part of evening Drama and Dance groups and just loved everything to do with performances and art.

It's true that moving from central Berlin to the Orpheus Centre was a big change to my day-to-day life. Living in the countryside with only a few buses per day and not many people around on weekends wasn't easy at first...

Looking back, it was worth it though! Volunteering full-time at Orpheus over the last year has been a big challenge, but hugely rewarding as well. I wouldn't have guessed all the skills I was going to learn: there's dance technique, especially by joining InCompany - an inclusive evening dance group with students, alumni, volunteers and staff; there is Makaton sign language which I have started to learn from some of the students and staff; and of course, I have met so many amazing people – students, staff and volunteers, who have made my year a true joy, and who I miss sorely now that I'm back in Germany.

When I reflect on my year at Orpheus, I remember times when I was completely exhausted after supporting students during intensive rehearsal weeks and shows, but I can see that on a day to day level there were many amazing moments that showed me just what an impact Orpheus, in general, and maybe my own consistent support in particular, has had on the students. I know it was all worth it when I think of witnessing a student spell and type a whole sentence with only a few prompts who needed support spelling their name when we first met, or speaking loud and clear in a drama performance for a student whose voice was hard to make out at the beginning of the year. These are things that I wouldn't have thought possible, but the hard work of the Orpheus community is paying off!

Of course, Orpheus is great for all the stage kings and queens, but I think it's particularly wonderful to experience how it's all about students who need some time, encouragement, and a fair bit of work before they dare show off all their amazing skills!

I guess the development is just as big on my side though. Orpheus has given me the chance to be in many performances and to improve my performance confidence – that’s something I admire the students for! – but also to try out some teaching skills of my own. This has all been achieved through working with the incredible staff, who inspired me on so many levels, and trusted me enough to give me a fair bit of responsibility in working with the students. Along the way, I even improved my English, too, even though this feels like more of a side effect of talking to staff and students and working on lines for the drama performances.

I’m sending best wishes to everyone – Thank you Orpheus