Its the first week of September in 2018 and I’ve just received an e-mail. It’s from my Practice Educator at my first placement, due to start in a week. I’m already anxious at the prospect of pretending to be a Social Worker for 70 days in an adult hospice, but this last-minute request doesn’t help.
“Please can you bring in a postcard which represents your thoughts and feelings at the start of your placement.”
I don’t even know where to start, apart from a wild array of deeply inappropriate imagery which would probably show my dark sense of humour a little too early. After a few days I finally have an idea. I draw a postcard-sized picture and cut it out, ready to take along to my first supervision. My Practice Educator explains that she wasn’t expecting me to draw something – I have three children, am doing a full-time course, and have a partner working, so my postcard shopping hours are limited – but was glad that I’d embraced her idea, nonetheless.
My drawing reflected my anxieties around working with loss (with so much loss in my personal life already) and in an area I felt I knew nothing about, and it really helped to shape that first supervision session into something honest, open, and positive.
'Images that can take you anywhere; whether they help you reflect, reminisce, explore an imaginary world, or act as a metaphor.'
I drew another for both my mid-point review and for my final review, reflecting how my confidence had grown. At my final review my Practice Educator also brought a postcard. It was helpful to continue the open discussions we had in supervision, and to hear from her perspective at the end.
I saw the power that a small image can have on a therapeutic relationship, albeit for me in a professional context. I scoured internet sales groups and by Christmas 2018, two weeks after my placement had ended, I was the proud owner of around 1,500 postcards. That is where CardStarters began.
Using repurposed VHS boxes, CardStarters packs contain 30 postcards to help start or reinvigorate conversations. The postcards are a mix of photography and art, showing landscapes, portraits, exotic parts of the world, animals, and sometimes more unusual scenes or items.
The idea is that you have a box which contains a range of images that can take you anywhere; whether they help you reflect, reminisce, explore an imaginary world, or act as a metaphor.
CardStarters is an ethical company. We give 20% of all net profit to good causes and we donate any unwritten postcards that we can’t or don’t use to the Postcards of Kindness project .
We never use written postcards in our packs (because we buy them from charity shops we do end up with a mix) and instead we aim to repurpose or reunite these used postcards.
Feedback is important to us, and so far the feedback we have had from a range of professionals has been very encouraging. People who have tried a pack include Social Workers, Occupational Therapists, Counsellors, and Music Therapists.
You can find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. We post samples of our postcards regularly and every 30 photos we have a competition to win a free pack – our last winner was in Canada!
I started my “career of care” back in 2005 when I volunteered for Samaritans. Since then, I continued to find roles that developed and challenged myself while still giving me the sense of job satisfaction you get when helping others. From volunteering and working in front-line care, through to commissioning and GP practice management, there have always been times when I could have done with something to start or shift a conversation and I wished I’d had something as simple as a pack of postcards with me.
Dave is the founder of CardStarters. He is s final year student Social Worker and dad of three.