Writing has therapeutic values. There is no doubting that. But writing can be more meaningful for those who are struggling in life. In Vancouver there are programs that are bringing the art of writing to a variety of people from the homeless, to low-income people, to sex trade workers.
One such initiative is the Wish literacy program, which has workshops set up for sex trade workers in the Downtown Eastside. The program teaches confidence and communication that is essential for development.
Another such initiative is the Megaphone Community Writing program. The classes are run by Megaphone workers, and they go into community shelters, spaces, and rehabilitation centres to teach classes and workshops on creative writing. The work of the students and writers of other programs, such as Wish’s, are being published in Megaphone Magazine.
These programs have been a powerful tool for teaching communication and introspection. One such advocate of these programs is local writer and poet Amber Dawn. Amber has firsthand experience with the healing qualities of writing:
“I frequently credit poetry for saving my life,” says Amber Dawn, queer author, activist and program director for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
“This may seem like an exaggerated claim, but my life really did take a turn for the better when I found a voice through creative writing,” she says.
“When I enrolled in my first poetry class at UBC, I was living in an SRO [single-room-occupancy hotel] at Carrall and Hastings and working in the sex trade. In many ways, writing was central to building self-respect and making safer choices. Writing my own story allowed me to see how vulnerable my story and I were.
“And being skilled in written communication allowed me to better advocate for myself as I was exiting the sex trade,” she adds.
–Text via Xtra West, (read here for the full article).
In order to raise awareness and funding for the Wish program, Amber Dawn created a reading series entitled thrilLITERATE. thrilLITERATE is an evening of poetry, storytelling and of recognizing literacy as a basic human right. Queer authors read to raise funds for the women's literacy program in the Downtown Eastside. Now in its second year, the event has raised over $1,500 for the Literacy and Learning Program at WISH: a centre for female survival sex workers.
Friday, January 22, 7:30pm featuring: Catharine Chen, Elizabeth Bachinsky, David Findlay, Trish Kelly, Daniel Zomparelli, Amber Dawn and Michael V Smith.
Saturday, January 23, 7:30pm featuring: Afuwa Granger, Shana Myara, Mette Bach, Tony Correia, C. E. Gatchalian, Cathleen With, and a musical finale by BlueLight (Lin Gardiner, Andrea Hector) Sliding scale: $5-$15 per night