March 23rd, 2020, the world changed as we knew it in Britain. Shops closed, restaurants closed, schools and nurseries closed, churches closed, parks closed, garden centres closed, not to mention many other small and large businesses. A week prior to the full lockdown, we received one call from Nottingham City Council, instructing us that for our safety and the safety of the members of Open Wings, that we needed to disband our service for a while.

We quickly collated together some things which we might have needed to be able to work from home and we closed the doors at our lovely base at Sherwood Community Centre. We could never have anticipated what came or what was yet to come. We had not envisaged not being able to return to work for such a long time. 

With little information with regards to what the future would look like we set about continuing to support the citizens who attended Open Wings. In the first instance, we were calling citizens regularly, texting them, sending videos and gradually as we worked out all the techy bit we moved onto providing some support on line. That was a learning curve!

As a smaller service within Nottinghamshire and currently a private service we were feeling quite isolated with the change and the enormity of what might lie ahead. 

We started off slowly by providing one off one to ones using zoom as our virtual platform. Over the months we have built up and we have been offering a session each day where citizens can come online and continue to be part of the group that they were once part of. 

For some citizens this new way of working has actually been really positive. They seem to like working online and seeing us each day. They seem to like the short burst of 40 minutes to do an activity. They look forward to building this into their day. For those citizens that wish we also offer one-to-one support online and again these have been really successful sessions. In order for all of this to happen it has become essential more than ever for us to work closely with parents, carers key workers and residential homes. All the parents and carers have also been thrown into a new learning environment having to learn new technology. It’s great to see the parents online supporting the citizens and even better when the parents and carers are getting involved in the sessions like having a lovely dance at the VE Day Celebrations. 

MONDAY MOTIVATION

So, what does our week look like? Well we start our week off with Monday motivation. This session does exactly what it says. it helps to get citizens into a positive mindset for the rest of the week. We aim to have as much fun as possible in the session and make it very interactive. It’s a good session to start the week off with and everyone enjoys it.

TUESDAY AFTERNOON TEA

Tuesday afternoons are our Tuesday Afternoon tea. We share a biscuit or cake and a pot of tea together and we do some online activities which stimulate the brain and memory but are also fun.

TRANSFORM TRAINING – SURVIVING LOCKDOWN – MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT WORKSHOP

Wednesday morning has been all about our mental health and this workshop was offered by the wonderful Transform Training. This has been a highlight of our online work during the coronavirus pandemic. The trainers ran the workshop in a person-centred way and during this time members were able to talk about their feelings regarding the current situation. There were lots of interactive, thought provoking activities. Transform training have been excellent and I would highly recommend them to provide workshops to any groups that may benefit from their expertise. 

THURSDAY DISCO DANCE

Thursday afternoon is the most energetic part of our week where we come together at 4 o’clock for our online action party disco dance session. Here we get chance to watch YouTube videos, follow some dance moves. It’s great for our mental health but also great to incorporate some form of exercise and fitness into our week. 

FRIDAY – THE FABULOUS OPEN VOICES CHOIR CONTINUES ON LINE

Friday mornings are dedicated to the Music for everyone Open Voices choir. This continues to be phenomenal and members of the choir look forward to this all week texting on the WhatsApp group which songs they would like to sing. Our thanks go out to Victoria Barlow and Cliff McArdle for ensuring that this vital part of our week could continue. 

Alongside our weekly workshops we also run individual workshops for members that wish to have these. We send out online work and activities and over the lockdown we have provided opportunities for members and families and parents and carers to enjoy some online social events. One of our first events was VE day celebrations. We had an on-line afternoon tea event. We danced to songs from years gone by and remembered those that fought for us. 

We also facilitated a virtual prom which was truly wonderful. Everyone got dressed up dicky bows in the mix too. We danced together on line and had a great time. A week later came out on line fancy dress. A great time had by all. Costumes ranged from Pirates, to 60’s rock chicks and Where’s Wally. It was absolutely great fun.

OPEN WINGS has worked tirelessly to ensure that we have continued to provide a service that meets the needs of the individuals that we serve. It is not been perfect, and not without some difficulties, but under the circumstances we have done our utmost.

Although the doors to the Community Centre where we are based are still closed (due to re-open soon) Open Wings is not Closed it is very much open and has been throughout the lockdown, it’s just that we have been working in a very different way. We are looking forward to the future and although there will be some changes we have shown that we are able to adapt and we have all shown resilience during this trying time. It has shown us that Open Wings is more important than what we had imagined in the daily days of our members and for that we are thankful that we can make a positive difference, as this is what we originally set out to do.