Community Circles help people to stay connected to whatever matters to them; people, hobbies and interests and explores how we can support someone’s wellbeing and sense of belonging.  While this remains our core purpose, lockdown restrictions during the Covid pandemic have had a huge impact for us all on the way we live and connect with others and has nudged us to think in different ways about how we support connections and wellbeing.

Jean is a great storyteller and loves to reminisce about her time in the land army during the war and has great knowledge of local history.  She loves to share her stories and reflect with people about how times have changed and how different the local area looks.  Jean lives in a care home in the same area she grew up and when we first met Jean and began exploring doing more of what matters to her, local history was high on the priority.

Before COVID we looked at creating more opportunities for Jean to share her stories; initially gathering resources together for conversation starters with the staff team, objects and local history books and joining a Facebook Group where others shared their stories of their war time experiences.  Jean loved sharing her stories and hearing from others and this developed into a regular reminiscence group with other people in the care home, sharing their own stories of growing up locally.

At the Circle meetings we continued to share ideas about other opportunities for Jean to share her stories and suggested contacting a local school to see if the children would be interested in visiting to hear Jean’s stories.  The school arranged a visit and the children were excited to share what they had learned about local history and hear Jean’s stories.  There was much discussion about how different toys are!

Often one idea at one Circle meeting sparks further ideas and creates ripples involving many more people.  Meeting Jean and hearing her stories was the catalyst for further developing the relationship between the school and the care home and lots of joint events and activities were enjoyed together.

When lockdown restrictions came into force the visits from the school had to stop.  There was a huge sense of disappointment as the visits had been enjoyed so much.  If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught is, it’s the importance of connections and how vital they are for our wellbeing.  Often a favourite question within a Circle meeting when facing a challenge is ‘how can we do that differently?’

While face to face get togethers weren’t possible we needed to be creative about maintaining connections exploring what was possible and practical…

Jean has continued to stay in touch with Mike, her volunteer and together they chat on the phone.  Through their conversations Mike is recording Jean’s stories and his daughter is helping type up the information.  Jean is looking forward to sharing this with her family and the local school children.

The school have arranged times to get together with people living in the care home through video calls; choir performances, sharing art work displays and having great conversations about “what was your first…”

The relationships that flourished before lockdown have continued with some of the children sharing letters and drawings supported by their parents.  There is always much excitement when the children wave through the windows after posting their letters.  

As well as thinking creativity around what matters to individuals, at Community Circles we have also had to think differently about the way we can connect people through shared interests.  At the start of lockdown in March 2020 we transferred all our face to face groups onto Facebook Circles Connected.

The group is influenced by the interests of our members with a variety of events and activities over seven days a week, an online space for connection and contribution.  This online space has widened our community and we have group members from across the UK and gives Jean the opportunity to share her stories more widely and connect with others where previously geography would have been a barrier.

Let’s keep being creative about how we can support people to connect

How are you supporting connections?  We’d love to hear from you…