Mindfulness and Health & Wellbeing

By Rachel Cole, Projects Officer

The last 11 months have been very different and difficult for many people and for different reasons. The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession have negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness. To try and help Thurcroft investigated doing something to help towards mindfulness and health & wellbeing.

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Rotherham Federation Covid-19 Response

RotherFed have been part of the overall community support programme targeting those most in need in our communities, initially through the Rotherham Heroes campaign and Community Hub, but also through providing support to our network of TARA’s and community groups. Our CEO has been involved in the multi-agency response and the Rotherham Tactical Group that work together to respond to community needs. As part of our involvement in the Rotherham Heroes campaign, we took a lead role in helping to shape and organise Friendship Calls to the most isolated and lonely people across the borough, culminating in the creation of a Befriending Providers Network that is Chaired by our CEO and meet monthly to improve outcomes for local people who are lonely and isolated.

Read our full Covid Response below:

Zoom Santa

By Rob Gooding, Community Organiser

The project began when Winston contacted RotherFed saying he wanted to make the community feel better at Christmas. This was because of the pandemic and children would not get to see Santa Claus at the local amenities and festive attractions due to the COVID restrictions at the time. So we worked with Winston to create a Santa Grotto Online that would be free for all families to enjoy. We sourced Santa a fancy new red suit for the occasion and supported him to catch up on his IT skills. This is because Santa was okay at using technology but needed some support from RotherFed to adapt to the task at hand.

The project had adhered to strict safeguarding procedures and we worked with Winston to ensure that these were followed throughout the 3-day project. We were pleased that there was no incident where the procedures had been broken throughout. Winston’s performance as Santa Claus was great and he really enjoyed playing the part. He was very enthusiastic on each call and he just pleased that he had been able to make some families happy by seeing Santa Claus before Christmas.

This was Winston’s second Christmas event with RotherFed and will probably not be the last. Overall the event managed to engage with 46 individuals in total across East Dene, Dinnington and East Herringthorpe. Most of the community members who participated in the event were all new engagements for the area. The event managed to engage with 12 people from the East Dene area, 21 from Dinnington and 13 from East Herringthorpe. Families enjoyed the online experience and had thanked Santa and his helpful elves for a Christmassy event when Christmas didn’t feel quite the same. A massive thanks to Winston and all his enthusiasm to cheer up his community.

Sheila From Swinton Crafty Ladies

Shelia has been involved with Rotherham Federation for many years now and although I have heard Shelia mentioned in passing until recently, I have not had any direct contact with her.  Since moving to the North of the Borough at the end of October 2020 I have spoken to Shelia on many occasions and have now got to know her much better.

Shelia is a very active member and volunteer who is part of both Swinton Community Focus group and Crafty Ladies. She does a great deal for others despite sometimes suffering with her own health. Shelia has just re-engaged with the Housing Involvement Panel meetings and has expressed an interest in becoming involved in the Housing Hubs and with coffee mornings.

During the summer months of lockdown Shelia started chair aerobics outside in the street for people to join in with her, this was very successful, and everyone enjoyed it.  Shelia is now working with Active Dearne to deliver the chair aerobics online. RMBC are running a piece on wellness in the next edition of Home Matters and Shelia will feature in this.

Swinton Community Focus Group ran a Christmas Give A Gift for the underprivileged children in the area and not only were they overwhelmed by gifts, they also received over £1000 in donations. As all this money wasn’t used, they will now do a Easter egg hunt at Easter and purchase Easter eggs with the leftover money to give out as prizes.

Shelia also has weekly contact with other members of both groups where they do crafts/play games etc online, making sure everyone is well and keeping in touch with each other where possible.

I am looking forward to working more closely with Shelia and getting involved in her area, especially when the lockdown has eased more.

Friendship Call Participant – Susan

Susan originally came through to us from RDASH and was their first referral into the friendship calls. Susan is a very complicated case in that she is currently undergoing a transition from male to female. Suffers with affective schizophrenia, has delusions and Asperger’s syndrome. Susan has no confidence in herself or in the system and feels that she is often persecuted because of her choices. She has been ostracised by her family and has no friends. She doesn’t go out except when necessary to get food etc. My initial conversation with Susan went very well, and she did respond to me albeit a little guarded. Her comment was that it was going to be lovely to be able to speak to someone on a friendly level and hoped that I would ring her back. I followed up with a report back to the referrer from RDASH, which prompted a response thanking me for my professionalism and for taking Susan on, this has been discussed with the referrers other colleagues and has resulted in us starting to get more referrals from them.

I followed up a week later with another call to Susan who was totally surprised to hear from me saying that she did not expect me to call her back, and I explained that I enjoyed talking with her and that she would always get a call from me every week. She was so touched and after having a great chat about food, dreams and the general state of affairs, she burst into tears and thanks me profusely at the end of the call for just treating her like a normal person. I made arrangement to follow up again a week later. This week, she was so much more open with me and has started to trust me now by sharing her session with me that she had with her psychiatrist. This was a massive step for Susan who does not like talking about her issues due to not being able to trust anyone. We are now building a steady relationship and her trust and confidence is increasing.

Friendship Call Volunteer – Peter

I have known Peter for a couple of years now as her originally wanted to volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Society, but he found the training to be too daunting and he dropped out. Peter is a highly intelligent man that used to be a chemical engineer for TATA steel. He started to develop mental health issues, ODC and other problems and had to give up his job. He is an avid painter. He lost all of his confidence and was worried when he approached me again as a volunteer. After offering him reassurance that the training and induction was a lot easier than previously – he decided to give the friendship call volunteer role a go with a lot of support from me. He was extremely nervous to make his first calls, so we allocated Peter people that we thought he would find easy to communicate with. After his first calls, he rang me and was so proud of what he had achieved, he couldn’t stop saying what it meant to him to be able to give something to people and that he had an enjoyed it more than he expected. He immediately build a rapport with one of his service users, so much so that after a follow up with her, she has asked if he could continue calling her as she found him to be such a lovely person ‘he feels like an angel to me, and I am sure if I met him, he would be wearing a halo’ I reported back to Peter what had been said, and he was so happy so say that he would be very willing to continue calling this lady and they are now building a great relationship and Peter’s confidence is growing from strength to strength.

Friendship Call Participant – Peter

Peter Smith is a 106-year-old resident. I have been calling since the beginning of lockdown and have recently passed the call onto our volunteers. I rung Peter again this week to check in with him and to see how is coming along.

When I first spoke to Peter. He was getting food parcels each week and suffered with his vision, so he was quite nervous and unsure and very isolated. We hit it off straight away and Peter warmed to the fact that not only we were thinking of him, but also that we were there to chat and help.

Peter doesn’t have any family around. He was married, and once had children which he tragically lost in the air raids in Portsmouth in the war, but having spoken at length with him about having people around him, he is happy that he has numerous friends he can call on, like his 100 year old friend.

Peter comes from a musical family; whose Mother was a singer who toured America. This is something he picked up as a young man and played guitar until an accident forced him to retire and he eventually took up the harmonica. Each time I phone he will play me some harmonica down the phone from his favourite artist Larry Hadler. The music was a theme we had across all our calls, and Peter’s mood really picked up when we were on the topic of music.

Peter was even so good to give me some tips on my garden, and how best to grow potatoes. Peter really enjoys being able to speak to someone about common interests, something which he has not had in a long while. This has been a common theme of conversation and we have really bonded over our love of gardens and speaking about this has rekindled Peter’s Joy of gardening and has taken steps to get back into the garden and do things he hasn’t done in a long while.

Over the weeks we have built up a fond relationship and I can see that he has improved in himself because of this. He is now able to get out and about on his new scooter a bit and has started painting (something he hasn’t done for a long time) and has come a long way since the start of lockdown, with the friendship calls playing a major part in that.

Peter is now speaking with our volunteers and I am keeping in touch with him once per month to offer that support so we can keep that trusted relationship, and with our volunteers so he has a variety of people to speak to.

Friendship Call Participant – Neil

Neil came through to RotherFed as a potential service user from Social Prescribing. Neil lives with severe Borderline Personality Disorder and OCD and lives on his own with no family support. An initial conversation was held with Neil to explain the service to him. He was amiable and spoke a lot about his interests in Japanese culture and fast cars, I built a fantastic rapport with him and he opened up about the distrust that he has in people and the feeling that no one listens to him or understands him. I made arrangements to call him again the following week, and he was so happy to receive my call, he said it was a pleasure being able to talk to someone who just listens or who speaks about the things that interest him. Neil was very down at the beginning of the call and after 45 minutes he had cheered up tremendously and I was privileged to be named as his friend and he also stated that this is something that he thought would never happen to him, to have a friendly chat with someone who does not judge him, or try to change him, but someone who just lets him be ‘normal’ for a change.

Friendship Call Participant – Joyce

Joyce’s granddaughter had arranged for friendship calls as she was worried her Nan was not getting enough stimulation. Joyce is 93 years old and lives alone, prior to lockdown she would get on the bus most days. Although Joyce did agree to the friendship calls, when I spoke to her granddaughter prior to ringing Joyce, she did say that her Nan is very independent and will either embrace the call or not want to speak to me as she is not a person for talking to strangers.

Joyce certainly embraced our call. We spent nearly 50 minutes chatting, Joyce told me all about her life and family and she also asked about mine. Following this call, I rang her granddaughter to let her know how it went and she was delighted that her Nan was willing to talk to me and that we had spoken for so long.

Since that day I have spoken to Joyce every week, sometimes twice a week, we always have a lovely chat and spend about an hour on the phone, we could talk for much longer too. Joyce really looks forwards to my calls, our chat is always very general, and Joyce is always very positive and never complains. I also enjoy chatting to Joyce, she is a remarkable woman.  I have spoken to her granddaughter a couple of times since the referral and she told me that her Nan talks about me, about how lovely I am and how she looks forward to my weekly call, which is lovely to hear.

I think Joyce is a great example of a pure friendship call and how well these can work and the benefit they can have. My calls to Joyce are really making a difference.

Friendship Call Volunteer – Donna

Donna joined RotherFed back during the first lockdown. Donna comes from a very experienced background and has a wealth of knowledge. My relationship started with Donna in August when I first started with RotherFed and upon her first call allocated by me, it turned into a safeguarding case. Donna contacted me and I responded immediately and took the matter forward. Donna is a very astute volunteer and with her experience goes over and above what she needs to do as a friendship volunteer. She will always report back to me should she have any concerns, and my response has always been immediate. We have built up a good relationship over these last 3 months so much so that Donna now will always take on as many calls as we are willing to give her and will follow up with me weekly on any concerns. Donna informed me that she cherishes working with me as she feels really supported as a volunteer and feels that should she have any concerns, they will always be dealt with and this has also resulted in Donna being very willing to take on more complex calls as she feels that the support will always be there when and if needed. Donna will be rewarded for the work that she is doing due to her continued commitment to those that she calls.