After completing her undergraduate degree in psychology with the aim to become a counsellor, Fiby Saad began volunteering at Cardiff Women’s Aid. She wanted to support women who had experienced abuse, but as she had no experience working as a counsellor, this option was not available to her. At the time, she was also teaching herself how to paint – she found it a therapeutic hobby, and so suggested creating an art workshop at her interview with Cardiff Women’s Aid.
I had little experience with painting myself, but my aim was not teaching painting but to create a space where anyone can paint… I wanted to share the benefits of painting that I was seeing in myself
Fiby began conducting weekly art sessions as CWA’s Art Workshop Facilitator. Accompanied by jazz music playing in the background and discussions about everything from feminism to favourite movies, women of all ages and backgrounds came together to learn to paint landscapes inspired by the artist Bob Ross.
Making art accessible was important to Fiby, and she encouraged a positive, supportive atmosphere where everyone could paint confidently, no matter how much experience they had. This accessibility carried over to the online workshops conducted when lockdown began – Fiby changed the medium from painting to drawing so anyone could join with just a pencil and some paper, with women from all over the UK participating in the virtual workshops.
Painting and drawing helped them to gain a skill which they can use whenever they feel overwhelmed or anxious
Fiby saw the positive impact that being creative had on those who took part in the workshops. Letting go of the belief that you have to have a certain skill set or special talent to paint enabled the women who participated to become more confident in their abilities. As their confidence grew, they tried new ideas and added their own unique flair to their work. Fiby recalls that when unnecessary expectations were removed, the women “were able to gain the benefits of it – feeling calm, being in the moment, and having a sense of achievement.”
“I learnt how to facilitate a group, both in person and online, [and] how to make sure that everyone is on the same step as well as encouraging everyone to keep going”. She says that her confidence and self-esteem has grown, which has carried over into other aspects of her life. In addition, she now paints regularly and made a good friend from the experience. Fiby also undertook a training course offered by CWA, which helped her to understand different types of abuse, how to foster a safe atmosphere, and what to do when a woman asks for help. Following her work with CWA, Fiby began a masters course at University College London. Fiby was nominated for the Young Volunteer of the Year Award at the 2020 Cardiff Volunteer Awards for her work at CWA. Of volunteering, she says, “it is a wonderful win-win act of love; you help others which helps you become happier which creates a happier community overall and who doesn’t want that!”