The show must go on…
By Saul Turner, Community Development Coordinator, VOICES
In the summer of 2019, working with people in recovery and leaving detox, we identified that there was a gap in opportunities for people in these circumstances to connect with others. On exploring options, customers and volunteers told us that they would benefit from having a weekly opportunity to get together, enabling a safe environment in which they could share their achievements, struggles, worries and concerns. Several were experiencing mental and physical difficulties and felt alone.
We decided to look at ways that we could support people to connect and, as a result, “Snapback” was formed. This is a weekly meeting for peers to share and support each other. The group soon expanded to having 2 accessible venues per week plus once weekly within the local detox unit (Edward Myers Unit). The groups had just started to establish themselves and grow in attendance, then running into March 2020 …. the world as we knew it stopped and COVID-19 made its deadly appearance. At first, we felt, there was nothing we could do; everywhere was shut – no venues, no meeting face to face, 2 metres apart, masks and bubbles. Even when restrictions were eased between lockdowns, people became reluctant to meet (rightly so) as they were concerned about catching the virus.
It took a while, but we managed to move the group meetings to an online platform – this is not ideal as there are people who have no internet access / equipment – but it is a start. With the added concerns of COVID-19 in addition to existing mental health struggles, we decided to go ahead to, at least, connect as many people as we could.
Currently we facilitate two online “Snapback” meetings each week on Mondays and Fridays and have built up a regular support group which is valued by members: by the end of 2020 228 people had accessed the online group. Several have accessed voluntary work, and some have moved into employment. Here is what some group members have to say:
“The Snapback group helps me in many ways as I am isolated with mental health problems and addiction difficulties. The Community Development Coordinator is very experienced and knowledgeable in various fields including addiction and psychology and his group is an asset to the community. This group as well as the many long terms friends I see in it helps me keep sane and sober and has been an absolute godsend during the current virus crisis and many of us rely on it as being our only contact with other people. This group should be encouraged, expanded, and advertised as it has the potential to benefit many more people”
“The Snapback group has helped during lockdown especially for those like myself who live alone and became isolated due to restrictions. Through Saul and the group, I received the support I needed to get back into employment recently”.
“I want to thank you for the time and support you have given me during the many weeks of lockdown and after, I’d have really struggled without your help during all of this do, thank you. You’ve been a constant support to me for many years now and its gone a long way in helping me to get well, pleased keep doing what you’re doing because you really do make a difference. Not just to me but many others. Thanks again”.
We hope to continue working with these groups and to continue to support Expert Citizens C.I.C. to develop this work throughout 2021.
For more information ring saul on 07766417174 or email [email protected]