Rhonda Zangwill, NYWC Workshop Leader
“It was completely random”, Rhonda Zangwill says of the circumstances that brought her to NY Writers Coalition in 2016. While working at New York Public Radio, she overheard a coworker talking about their friend who had recently facilitated a creative writing workshop for women incarcerated on Rikers Island. This struck a chord with Rhonda, who’s always been passionate about serving underserved populations and happened to be looking for a new organization to volunteer with. She asked the coworker for their friend’s information and ended up meeting former Program Director and long-time NYWC family member, Nancy Weber. Nancy told Rhonda about the upcoming round of NYWC workshop leader applications, Rhonda applied, interviewed, got in, and found herself sitting in a leader training on Saturday, January 20th, 2017, the day after President Trump’s inauguration.
“It ended up being sort of the best place to be” she said, “to not have to think about that, to have something so completely and utterly opposite. Something about writing and volunteering and helping people. We didn’t even talk politics; there was this sort of attitude of “this is what we do and we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing”, as well as this incredible communal spirit that really overcame -- to the extent possible -- what was going on in Washington DC.”
In talking to Rhonda, the concepts of community and spirit were two of the tenets of NY Writers Coalition that resonated the most strongly with her. At NYWC we provide spaces to write, read, share, and understand one another for communities sometimes lacking in means but never in spirit. Our participants are so driven to write, express, and celebrate themselves partially because of (not in spite of) the fact that we live in a world that often tells them that they shouldn’t. It’s something Rhonda experienced firsthand when she was called on to lead in a substitute capacity at that same women’s workshop on Rikers Island. “The first time I subbed not many people showed up, but it felt like it didn’t matter because the passion and personal and [the workshop] gave them a voice in a place where they have no voice…The other thing was it occasioned a lot of conversation among the women. A lot of understanding of each other’s situation, I didn’t even feel like I had to facilitate. They were just talking and understanding one another. [These workshops] offer a space for communication that might not exist elsewhere.”
If you care about such spaces, about making sure that women incarcerated on Rikers Island, or people living with disabilities, or so many others with specialized needs have a place to come together, write, share, and express themselves, then please donate to our Spring Membership Drive. Because of many factors, including those hinted at in the first paragraph of this spotlight, this is a critical time for NY Writers Coalition. No other organization in this country supports the creative writing of so many people from so many different types of backgrounds. For as little as $5 or $10 a month, you can ensure that that those communities are supported for a long time to come.
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