St Mungos Recovery College has an innovative new learning programme, based on the principle that personal learning can have a transformative effect on people’s lives. Set up by St Mungos, a national charity campaigning on issues of homelessness, the College has bases in London and Bristol, and is planning to expand to other areas.
The Recovery College does not focus on achieving qualifications, rather it provides an inclusive and supportive environment in which people have the opportunity to experience a range of subjects and wellbeing activities alongside peer learners and volunteer tutors and facilitators. Anyone can attend the college, St. Mungos clients and members of the public alike.
Responding to the open invitation from the Recovery College to offer ‘a topic as a course for others’ Peace Partners volunteers Juli and Chrissie thought the Peace Education Programme (PEP) would be an ideal course to offer. Partnership Manager Tracee paved the way by sending information from the Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF), outlining the course and Chrissie went along to talk about the possibility with staff at the college.
The response was very positive, and the Recovery College went on to register and obtain a license to provide PEP Collections as a course under the heading of ‘Move on, Client support and practical skills’.
The first PEP is now half completed. The small team of volunteers who run the course is made up of St. Mungos staff in collaboration with Lola who facilitates and Chrissie from Peace Partners. The team reports that people attending have been enthusiastic and find it's a safe and comfortable environment in which to express their responses, ideas and feelings. Some of the expressions are verbalised and some are written as beautiful prose or poetry. Although numbers fluctuate from week to week, a core group has attended every session.
The particular PEP course chosen, PEP Collections, allows for a very flexible use of time and there are at least two reflection periods in each session, with a group reading at the end, which attendees and
staff seem to appreciate, and which stimulates further expression and interaction.
Taking place on Tuesday morning each session lasts up to two hours, including a break.
Some of the participants written expressions have been in the form of moving statements and poems, and we have been given the writers permission to publish some excerpts from those expressions here:
"Life is sacred; when I realise that life is special, when I come from gratitude to be alive, I welcome every moment. I see the world differently. Life is beautiful. I realise I have a gift, which needs to be cherished, this realisation is empowering. Life is worth living!"
"Today I woke up brimming with happiness; I looked forward to attending the 2nd week of the Peace education Programme. I shared my poem with the group and it was well received."
"I learnt that man may live to 25,550 days, which is equivalent to 70 years of age. When you realise how short life is it makes you appreciate that life is precious, every moment counts. You need to choose wisely how you spend your time ... try to truly enjoy yourselves. May this be the day to lead us to peace, to happiness and to Joy."
"Life is a miracle, breathing is a miracle. Take one day at a time, prepare for your life journey. Seek peace within, hold on to hope, know that within you is the strength to achieve your dreams. Be in the moment. Choose to be contented wherever you find yourself and know that you are blessed to be alive."
Chrissie reports that part of her initial motivation came from watching a news programme about homelessness; a man being interviewed said “what I really want, more than shelter food or money, is just to be treated like a human being”. She feels the PEP running at the Recovery College setting fits so well with that aspiration, one that we all share.
You may also be interested in this news item about an article in Homeless Diamonds Magazine.