The other day I went to an art class. I can’t say I have much to offer in the way of artistic talent, but I wiled away a happy hour with some watercolours and came out smiling and relaxed – there was something very therapeutic about it.
There were seven of us in the class, and one lovely teacher who allowed us to create whatever we wanted; no rules, no right or wrong. We all chatted away idly - about nothing in particular - just chitchat. It was easy to forget where I was, or even feel the need to remember. At this time we were all just participants in the class - artists if you will - the context of our outside lives was irrelevant.
I was actually attending an art class run by Spitalfields Crypt Trust, an East London charity that works with individuals suffering with alcohol and drug addictions. Every person in the class that day had battled an addiction and was being supported by SCT to achieve recovery and re-integrate into society.
At one stage Anna, our teacher, told me that often she asks her students to paint with their non-dominant hand, as it allows a certain freedom (or forces a lack of control) and removes the stress of a conscious decision. It made me realise that this would be a challenge for everyone in the room; everyone would be equally inexperienced. We are all the same, individuals faced with daily challenges, big or small, and at SCT pre-existing circumstances don't come into it.
Spitalfields Crypt Trust offers support at every step of the way, from a drop-in centre providing food, clothing and advice, to residential recovery, to aiding personal development. Their centre offers classes in cookery, art, woodwork and computing, and gives every individual a chance to rebuild confidence and to gain a skill for the future. The focus is finding long-term solutions. Yes providing food helps, or giving change helps, but the long-term support of offering education and creating a network of support is invaluable.
What struck me most about this charity is the strength of its community, there is a sense of a family. Each individual is valued, a relapse is dealt with on a personal level, and support is tailored to his or her particular strengths and enjoyment.
The community extends beyond just the charity itself, into East London more widely. Numerous local business help in any way they can; Pret donate sandwiches and salads daily, Pizza Pilgrims have offered their pizza boxes for artwork to be displayed in their restaurant just down the road.
Spitalfields Crypt Trust understand the enormity of their task, but the support of their volunteers, employees, community and the individuals themselves is inspiring. Every single person I met reminded me that everyone just wants to feel loved, worthy and normal. SCT is doing everything it can to give this opportunity to as many individuals as possible, and spread a little humanity.