Community, Creativity, and a Pandemic
Community, Creativity, and a Pandemic
Sarah Hughes, National PTS Manager at Mayday Trust, talks to the Frontline Network about the importance of community and creativity during the COVID-19 outbreak:
I have been working with an incredibly creative lot for five years now. They push the boundaries of what we think of as services working with people going through tough times and re-frame thinking on what ‘support’ looks like. But since the national lockdown, they have had to ramp up the creativity on how they can deliver a person-led, community based approach in the midst of a pandemic.
PTS Coaches broker opportunities. Alongside the people they work with, they seek out bespoke, community based opportunities which build on an individual’s passions and interests. They are not problem solvers but rather community facilitators. So, how do they do this when we can’t physically get into the community? Below are a few ideas that the Coaches have come up with since they have begun delivering the Personal Transitions Service (PTS) whilst socially distancing.
I don’t know about you but since the lockdown started, I have been asked A LOT how I am doing. Last week I played a game of trivial pursuit with a group of friends through skype and it was a welcome relief from Covid-19. PTS Coaches have been doing the same with the people they work with as they look at online games through apps and other devices which allow them to have a break from the doom and gloom! It might even be a text quiz, sending riddles to each other or maybe facetime charades?!
Doing the everyday, virtually
For now, we do have our one walk a day. Some Coaches are having video chats with the people they work with whilst out on their daily exercise. This allows a feeling of escape and some kind of normality as many Coaches usually meet individuals in parks or walking around towns. This gives the conversation another focus as well and allows them to talk about the walks they may do when this is all over. Additionally, Coaches in Scotland have engaged with joint cooking sessions with the people they work with. Sharing recipes and skills between them, the coaches have been able to connect with the people they work with through the medium of food.
One of the people we work with said that they finally feel they have ‘permission’ to volunteer as they feel they want to be part of this shared human experience. It is astonishing that we need a pandemic for people to stop being ‘othered’ but this is an opportunity for people to be part of their community. Coaches have been having conversations with people on how they can volunteer to help us get through this crisis and be part of their community. The tables have been turning as well as individuals have been asking how Coaches are as well. It is understood that this is a human experience and we are all effected in some way and as we support each other, we tackle the power imbalance that exists between services/the public and people who access them. In the end, we are all people!
Some Coaches have been sharing TV programmes with people as they both agree to watch certain programmes then catch up on them next time. This allows them to have a shared experience and also build their relationship with their Coach. It brings a bit of purpose to being stuck inside in front of the TV if you can share it with someone! We have also had a coach organise a ‘Netflix party’ with someone they are working with in order to have some joint TV viewing to discuss.
There is a real worry at the moment about staying in touch with people who don’t have access to technology. Some Coaches have reported that individuals are not comfortable engaging with the levels of technology that the lock down is now demanding from us. Therefore, they are looking to connect in more simple ways by sending letters or postcards in order to stay in touch with individuals and allow a relationship to continue. These could be just catching up or equally adding games and other interesting elements in order to continue the conversation with individuals.
The PTS Coaches across our partnership, which stretches from Edinburgh to London, are continuing to adapt and learn as they seek out new ways of working without being able to see people face to face.
As building a trusting relationship is an essential element of delivering the PTS, a lack of physical contact is a real challenge. However, creativity and prototyping is at the core of the PTS and this will continue no matter the conditions.