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Volunteering Stories

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Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Mark John Honan, based in Norwich, recently completed the N&W Care Academy. 

I lived in America for 25 years and was a professional actor for 35 years and worked in a nursing home in between acting jobs. I would do poetry readings and readings from plays that I’d been in, I volunteered to spend time with residents on a volunteer basis as a friend and companion.  

I moved back to England and was unemployed so volunteered as a guide in the Stonehenge gallery at the Salisbury Museum, one of my passions is pre-history. I volunteered there for a 1-1.5yrs and then they employed me as a professional guide at the Turner Exhibition.  

After moving to London, I volunteered at an Oxfam shop doing whatever they needed. I now live in Norwich and volunteered at Amnesty International for a couple of years and I am looking for work and have just completed a healthcare certificate. I have also started my own theatre company Aural Sculpture Theatre company to provide free poetry readings to nursing homes, hospices, care homes, people who are blind anyone who likes to experience stories lifted off the page free of charge. Our motto is “we perform for free all we ask are some biscuits and a cup of tea”. 

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Why did you want to volunteer? Is there any reason you picked your role over other volunteering opportunities?   

I did very well in America as a theatre actor but being an actor can be a very self-involved profession. To balance my life I decided to form this company. We understand that people are concerned about covid, so we continue to perform at this one location in Norwich, but I’m prepared to travel. I want to provide something that is completely free. Everyone involved is a volunteer. I want to give back to society. It also gives me joy to make people happy.  

What difference do you feel your volunteering makes, to patients, staff and yourself? 

I have sent people out of the museum with a clearer understanding of Stonehenge and its landscape having been able to educate. It brings me great joy after my performances when people ask me to come back. I have published the feedback that we have had on our Facebook page. I think it really lifts people’s spirits and I have seen it on their faces. I love to make people happy using the skills I have as an actor.  

Are there particular skills or previous experiences that you have found beneficial in your volunteering? 

There are certain sectors that get ignored. In residential homes I have found that my skills can be used quite effectively. I like to make it interactive and now I have residents giving me ideas for poems.  

Could you share a memorable moment as a volunteer that stands out to you? 

There have been many…one in particular when after one of our poetry performances one lady came up to me and hugged me. She looked me in the eye and said “please come back, please come back” and she meant it, and that made it all worthwhile. We were performing a series of poems from Alice in Wonderland and other classic English poems. I choose poems that can have character that can be lifted off the page.  

What keeps you coming back to volunteer? Would you recommend it to others and what advice would you give to volunteers and staff? 

To give back and to give something to society, I was very lucky when I was young and feel that I should give back. Giving to other people also makes me feel good. I believe that it raises our consciousness as a society.