Minister of the Month – Ithaka Cordia
Meet our Minister of the Month Ithaka. In just over a year of becoming a volunteer, Ithaka has signed up for over 50 volunteer shifts.
In this time she’s bravely served every type of monster working as a shopkeeper for Hoxton Street Monster Supplies and mentored dozens of children, becoming a props builder, a stall keeper, a raffle tickets seller and a general all-round positive, thoughtful and supportive member of the Ministry of Stories team.
Name: Ithaka Cordia
Volunteer role: Some time Story Minister and other times Fearless Shopkeeper
Live: London Fields
Favourite story and why:
For the Ministry of Stories ‘Write for a Bright Future’ conference in 2015, 200 children from 12 countries together wrote ‘One Story, Many Endings’. The Saturday Club at Ministry of Stories kicked it off with ‘The Beginning’, a story that finished at a cliffhanger. Then children at writing and mentoring centres around the world took it from there. Story Planet in Toronto, Canada wrote my favourite ending.
Within it they wrote: ‘Just then, they were attacked by hipster pirates who were thirsty for lemonade and all its sweetness’. When I read this sentence, I was immediately reminded of another one of my favourites stories, the poem ‘Lemonade’ by Raymond Carver. This poem ends with:
‘But dying is for the sweetest ones. And he remembers
Sweetness, when life was sweet, and sweetly
He was given that other lifetime.’
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
Australian living in east London and exploring Europe. Likely found in a bookshop or bakery or wherever the cats are kept.
Why did you decide to volunteer with Ministry of Stories?
I first encountered the noble pursuits of the Ministry of Stories one afternoon in August. Strolling through St Mary’s Secret Garden, I spied a black cat basking amid a flourishing rosemary bush. I approached carefully but it ran away before I could even extend my hand.
Seeking distraction from this disappointing turn of events, I shifted my attention to the abandoned rosemary bush. Here I discovered a stack of wooden blocks and inscribed upon them was an acrostic poem about a hairy hedgehog. I conducted a deeper investigation and learned that a child, under the guidance of the Ministry of Stories, had authored this witty creation.
From that moment, right up until present day and undoubtedly well into the future, I knew that I must be involved with the Ministry of Stories in any capacity I could offer. It was the first time I had found anything like it and it was exactly what I had been chasing. I was even more thrilled to discover that there is a whole community of like-minded centres across the globe, patiently awaiting my visit.
Were you nervous about anything before starting?
I was nervous about my first workshop, whether I would know the right answer and if I would ruin everything if I didn’t. A piece of advice that another volunteer imparted was to trust your instincts and they were right; if you believe, they’ll believe. There’s always a debrief at the end of the workshop and you have the chance to discuss with other mentors what they would’ve done in your situation or get some positive reinforcement that you’re on the right track.
What has been the best experience of volunteering?
Volunteering for a number of Saturday clubs has allowed me to work closely with individual children. It is so rewarding to witness their progress in leaps and bounds.
One child went from not knowing what to write, ripping up half-formed ideas, to writing pages and pages without interruption.
What has been the most unexpected thing about volunteering?
I often find that I am so inspired by the writing tasks we do with the kids, my mind starts churning and I’ll want to start writing with them.
The incredible thing is the kids go off in a completely different directions. They share their stories in the workshops and from the same prompt they create different, unique, hilarious and pensive pieces. It’s great having the volunteer writing workshops every month (led by and for volunteers) where we can put into practice what we’re learning from the kids.
Has volunteering changed anything in your life?
Having lived in London for only six months before joining the Ministry of Stories, I found that volunteering gave me the invaluable opportunity to meet others with shared passions and interests.
I have found friends at the Ministry who I truly treasure and they bring so much light to my life. I think volunteering with an organisation where you connect with their mission and its delivery can be an excellent way of also finding people on your wavelength.
Describe the Ministry of Stories in three words:
Mind-Stretching, Heart-Thumping, Storytelling.