We laugh. Nearly cry and we definitely have fun! All within our community of carers and with the amazing support of The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Their collaboration with The National Lottery Community Fund brought funding our way. We pressed on the day we heard the good news. Since, we have hosted five digital coffee breaks in our private group called Family Umbrage. The expressed aim? Helping to combat loneliness for carers. And we have so much more planned.
We’ve done more than that
We’ve been blogging. With that, we have followed up across our social media platforms, Facebook and LinkedIn especially. There are times when we have shared our thoughts on LinkedIn as we reflect on the learning from our coffee breaks. We have asked for support from our referral partners and we have asked our beneficiaries what they want. We have tested a few different times – within our resources. Retained a consistent audience and tried to attract more. We have two more definite dates too that take us to 31st March.
Volunteers to sustain the project beyond the funding
Whilst the funding might end at the end of March, we have enough volunteers to keep hosting the digital coffee breaks. At the very least we will continue until 17th May when lockdown measures ease more so. That will be six more coffee breaks for carers. That will be a decision point for us to determine if there is interest to continue or not. We hope we do!
What have beneficiaires thought?
We’ve taken the opportunity to have some one-to-ones with some of our beneficiaries who attend the coffee breaks. What they love is the informality of each get-together. There is no agenda and they want it to stay that way. It is like going for a coffee with a friend. You don’t meet, arrive and take out your agenda. You ask everyone how they are. And you take it from there. A relaxed and friendly atmosphere has prevailed. And this is what is wanted.
We have pursued some ideas – a book club for example. This might yet happen, but it will be optional. And it will be like a break out room from the main group. People can opt in, but there is no pressure or obligation. Respectfully, we know carers’ time is often not their own. Whilst they would like to commit to a time and place, their loved ones for whom they are caring might need their help, out of the blue. Even the greatest project management skills can’t offset the need for a life saving machine to be re-set, or a toilet visit to be assisted with.
With this feedback, we acknowledge that our coffee breaks aren’t right for everyone. For some, they can’t see the point of just chatting. There is no learning objective. What’s the value? Different people have different needs and we understand that. We can provide a platform and an opportunity. Our beneficiaries that opt in are shaping the route we take. And we think that is just as it should be.
Keep the ‘drop in’ vibe
The nature of caring is unpredictable. So we have learned that some beneficiaries simply can’t make every week. It’s out of their hands. But there is still comfort in the knowledge of ‘next week’. Another opportunity will present itself. It’s another reason why we will be sustaining our coffee breaks beyond the point of funding.
Repeat the day and time. Repeat.
This seems to work. It certainly got a thumbs up in the feedback. That way, we are developing a good habit. Beneficiaries are checking in frequently to our Family Umbrage online private group to click the link to join in.
The idea to create a book has sprung from this project
We have learned that stories connect people. We discover common ground. Empathy is established. Comfort is taken from emotional connection with other people that perhaps we have never met. Stories help combat loneliness for carers. Our beneficiaries are our community and the richness of their stories drives us every day to sustain our work and to keep our Kingham Cottage doors open to unpaid carers. That’s why we are going to create a book of beneficiary stories.
A book to connect us and help us feel less alone as carers
The ambition is to make it beautiful. It will be a celebration of the resilience and strength of our beneficiaries. It will tell our story. The book will feature Umbrage, our teddy bear, that symbolises so much to our team and community. We are honoured to have the creative support and direction of one of our beneficiaries, Cate Wise. She is an artist and book illustrator and she happens to have a compelling story of her own. Together we will create a book that connects us with many different audiences. We will have a copy at the cottage available for every guest at Kingham Cottage to read – both unpaid carers and paying guests. We hope that it will be a fundraising project too. All beneficiaries are welcome to get involved. If you would like us to feature your story please get in touch with Tracy.
Grateful to The National Lottery Community Fund and The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
The support and funding we have had from these two organisations have made this project and the learning possible. We are extremely grateful to them for believing in us and the way we work with our beneficiaries. Their ethos is commendable. They champion our excellence in our field. They know we are great at looking after unpaid carers and they support us to get on with just that.
Helping to combat loneliness for carers
We love that they recognise how lonely and isolating our caring roles can be and facilitate our work to help combat this. Thank you to the team of people who have funded us thus far. We’ll sustain the effort, as ever, as it is our mission to care for those who care.