Minister of the Month – Ayman Farag
Meet our Minister of the Month Ayman Farag. Ayman is a Writing Mentor who shows amazing faith and belief in our young writers. His calm yet determined approach brings out the best in every child he works with.
Name: Ayman Farag
Volunteer role: Writing mentor
What’s your favourite story and why?
Catch-22 because all the character back stories and absurdities showed me that there doesn’t always have to be a reason, just a punch line – even if you didn’t hear the joke – and heart.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I teach English as a second language and every now and then write articles, usually about two of my passions: football and film. It’s only every now and then because I prefer writing fiction, you can stay in your pyjamas and it’s fun seeing where your own imagination goes.
Why did you decide to volunteer with Ministry of Stories?
I’ve worked with children from all kinds of backgrounds and lots of countries, and it’s always been a brilliant experience, whether it’s teaching English or coaching a football team. So the chance to help children be creative and really let their imaginations and ideas fly for an hour or more was probably the easiest decision I’ve ever made.
Were you nervous about anything before starting?
Oh yes, especially as the first workshop I mentored in was long-established. I thought right away the children would be sizing me up and it wouldn’t take them long to figure out I didn’t know what I was doing – despite the excellent training.
Of course, I had nothing to worry about, but the great things about working with and being around children – their honesty and curiosity – can also be intimidating when you first step in.
What has been the best experience of volunteering?
For the last two terms I volunteered on the speechwriting project at The Bridge Academy with 12 and 13-year-olds, who tend to be more guarded and self-conscious than the primary school children the Ministry usually work with. For one reason or another, the pupils taking part had been signed up for the workshops by the school, and there was one in particular who seemed happy to sit in the corner and keep her thoughts to herself.
Over the course of a couple of weeks, we talked about the things that annoyed her, amused her and how she would change the problems around her. These ideas grew into a well-balanced and provocative speech, which she gave to an audience in UK Parliament with the rest of her classmates.
Knowing how hard it was for her at the start to just speak in front of her peers, it was inspiring and a privilege to see her and the other pupils shake off any insecurities they had to engage with ideas and issues they care about.
What has been the most unexpected thing about volunteering?
In every workshop and session I’ve taken part in at least one child has produced a piece of work that’s either been a brilliant story, contained a beautiful or staggeringly surreal line, or has just demonstrated incredible creativity and disregard for the tired rules of writing. I guess the most unexpected thing is that I still get surprised at all.
Has volunteering changed anything in your life?
Well after thinking about being a secondary school teacher for years, I’ve finally stopped procrastinating on applying.
Describe the Ministry of Stories in three words
Unleashing children’s imaginations.
What would you say to other people thinking of volunteering with the Ministry?
Stop thinking, save that for when you first get asked what cubed earwax tastes like.