AJR’s My Story is a volunteer-led project which produces individual life story books for AJR members.
The advantages of volunteering are well-documented: the feel good factor which comes with helping others also brings health benefits and a sense of well-being. Volunteering can help people gain confidence, combat isolation, learn new skills and make new friends. Volunteering for My Story also offers a unique opportunity to hear the testimony of a victim of Holocaust persecution and help document it in a professionally designed and printed book.
We are particularly interested in hearing from volunteers with a background or interest in writing, editing and history. The My Story process involves several visits to record a member’s life story, transcription of the voice recordings, uploading the recordings and transcriptions to a file-sharing service, editing, proof-reading, scanning photographs and taking a portrait photo, and then it is professionally designed and printed. Volunteers are not expected to carry out the complete process although they are welcome to do as much of it as they feel able to.
Volunteers are given full training which covers interviewing, recording, transcribing and editing, along with data protection, safe-guarding and boundaries. Volunteers are supported throughout the My Story process by their Project Coordinator and are invited to AJR volunteer training sessions on subjects such as First Aid, Jewish Awareness Training, Loss and Change and so on, throughout the year, as well as volunteer ‘thank-you’ celebrations.
Please note that AJR’s My Story project runs all over the UK, with the exception of Manchester.
Interviewee Ivan Shaw discusses taking part in the project:
My rabbi from Alyth Gardens, Mark Goldsmith, gave my name to AJR as someone to take part in My Story, and I was delighted to do so. I had been planning to write my own story but I never got round to it. I was interviewed Lisa Bayfield several times. This was quite painful as it brought back so many memories. I have to say that I found the process emotionally draining.
My family and friends were very supportive and were very pleased with the book . My children and grandchildren especially so.
I heard about the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) from the AJR. I had always been reluctant to talk about my past because it brings back so many unhappy memories but having taken part in My Story felt more able to do so. I changed my mind for two reasons. Firstly, Holocaust survivors are passing on and I was one of the younger ones. Secondly we are living in a climate of increasing intolerance towards others because of differences in colour, culture, religion or even opinions. The history of the Holocaust tells us where this might end.
Interviewer Suzie Malin discusses taking part in the project:
I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of the My Story Project. I was given the chance to interview and transcribe the life story of a double camp survivor. The narrative was, as you can imagine, a vivid and heartbreaking account of life in the camps, but also of survival, belief in a higher power and ultimately love.
During this process, Eva had the unique ability to diffuse her often distressing accounts with humour, which helped us both enormously when recording the horrors she endured during the Holocaust and the difficulties afterwards. Her perspective on life, her wit and her love for her family are a testament to her strength as a survivor. I feel incredibly honoured to have met Eva and write her story and subsequently we have become firm friends - she is an amazing woman.
Throughout the entire process, AJR was a huge support and I urge anyone to take part in this project so that they can meet survivors and refugees who are still able to tell their story.