As the ‘curve’ is beginning to flatten, with the number of reported cases of COVID-19 in steady decline, we’ve been reflecting on the ways in which Kibble has adapted and evolved as a result of the pandemic. While this has been a time of great uncertainty, at Kibble, what has been very apparent is just how incredibly resilient the children and young people are, and how well they have adapted to the situation. Of course, owing to different circumstances it would be fair to say that not every day has been easy; there have been challenges, however the general sense of contentment has been heartening.
The benefits of maintaining structure and routine, particularly in times of uncertainty, are well documented, therefore at the onset of the pandemic as school days were disrupted, family visits were impacted and more time was spent indoors, there was real concern as to how this would impact on wellbeing. These concerns were soon alleviated as many young people quickly adapted to the ‘new norm’. Formal education was replaced with workshop-based activities with limited group numbers to maintain social distancing. This included preparing for a much-anticipated ‘Virtual Fashion Show’ encouraging young people to design and create outfits, learn new skills, collaborate with friends and work towards their Trinity Arts Awards. Young people also enjoyed visits from Rhona, Kibble’s very own Dr Doolittle, who, with the help of her animal friends brought therapeutic support and lots of joy. In an uncertain time, many additional measures were put in place to support young people’s emotional wellbeing across our Safe Centre and open services. Without the pressure of formal assessments, and more time to relax and discover new hobbies and interests, many young people have established a new, often more settled pattern.
The sense of community spirit and collective feeling of “we’re all in this together” was notable across Kibble. Young people joined the nation in clapping for the NHS and key workers, creating colourful banners and painting rainbows and messages of hope to display on windows and pathways. They also sought ways to make a difference in the community, baking cakes and making cards for residents in local Abbeyfield nursing home. This went down a treat, with residents sharing photos of their fun afternoon tea, wearing bright pink wigs and smiling from ear-to-ear. Children at Arran Villa, our early years residential care house painted brightly coloured stones and wrote letters to dot around the neighbourhood for the public to find. With this kind gesture, they wanted to bring a smile to those who were lucky enough to discover their special stones. The children found awe in nature, visiting waterfalls, watching sunsets over the water and made daily visits to see a mother swan guarding her nest in the hope of catching the first glimpse of her hatchlings.
The change of pace has helped to open new, positive childhood memories. Many staff shared their own childhood nostalgia and encouraged children and young people to play games such as hopscotch and traditional sports day races. One young lad who loves to explore the outdoors, sourced materials with his friends and they all built a large den in the garden. The warm weather has given young people the perfect opportunity to fill up the paddling pools, play water fights, enjoy barbecues and picnics in the gardens, as well as toasting marshmallow under the night sky. Many days were spent playing football, riding their bikes and practising Tic-Tok dances, prompting rather uncoordinated staff to get involved! Many evenings meant movie nights (often Disney themed) or playing bingo or quizzes with friends from other houses.
To ensure young people stayed connected with their families, while visiting wasn’t possible, video calls were encouraged. For young people that had moved on from Kibble, our closed group Kibble Connections Facebook page enabled staff to check in with the young people and provide ongoing support. This is a lifeline for so many young people, who post updates on their news, achievements, or when they need a familiar face to talk to. Always up for a laugh, staff in our Safe Centre shared an ‘exercise’ video on the group page to encourage others to get up and get moving – that’s if they could stop laughing long enough at our Ruby’s attempts at a star jump!
As we adapt to a new way of living, it’s fair to say that this experience has taught us a lot. As we step off the treadmill of daily life, there is time to pause and appreciate the smaller, more valuable things in life. Not trying to get hold of the latest games console, or perfecting the latest make up trend, but spending time with others, laughing uncontrollably, and making new, happy memories that last a lifetime.