(Digital) Connections are Key

By 27th May 2020 June 1st, 2020 Blogs, Learning and Reflections, PDI

Adjusting to the new normal takes time, but it feels like now we’re getting into a stride, that we are almost getting used to all this weirdness. I find days pass quickly as I busy myself with work and mastering my lockdown hobbies (Scots Gaelic Duo-Lingo and hair braiding), and life seems almost tolerable… until those occasional waves of heart-crushing FOMO that come when you miss something important, or at best, experienced it only on a screen.

Last week, my littlest niece managed to get her wee mouth around the complex ‘R’ sound required to say ‘Auntie Rowan’ for the first time while we were on FaceTime, a precious moment that usually would have been followed with a shower of kisses and cuddles.  Her ten-year old sister took ownership of an old mobile that week too, allowing her a way of keeping connected with me and the wee pals that she is missing so desperately.  On FaceTime, she proudly shows me the letters they write to each other, and the delicate homemade friendship bracelets she plans to send to her friends; little physical tokens of her love while they are apart. Their four-year-old brother’s contribution to keeping the family connected was to host a ‘joke competition’ on our family zoom. Despite me getting the lowest score for my Fringe worthy Knock Knock joke*, seeing him crack up at the cheesy punchlines had us all howling with laughter, bringing some shared joy amidst our separation.

Most of us have experience of these small, but important moments of trying to stay connected via video chats and messages. Technology has become a critical element of how we are connecting with each other as we adapt to how to show love and care for people when we cannot physically be together.  However, as Fiona said in her blog, while we may be in the same storm, we are often in very different boats. Technology and digital access remain a privilege, and for many people, particularly for those living with the consequences of poverty or addiction – phones, tablets and WIFI are not always available or accessible. The inequality gap has only grown during coronavirus, and this means that staying connected, whether with loved ones or trusted support services, is incredibly challenging for many children and families.

This year, we published our research project, Connections are Key, which showed how critical compassionate relationships are to supporting children and families affected by alcohol and drugs. Our research showed how Third Sector workers are often the most trusted professionals in families’ lives; a present and trusted ‘professional friend’ that families feel they can really rely on during tough times. It should not come as a surprise then, that these third sector organisations are adapting with dazzling speed and ingenuity, ensuring that our most vulnerable citizens continue to receive the compassionate care and support they deserve – by whatever means necessary.

Like many funders, Corra has tried to help as much as we can.  Groups that have received PDI funding have been offered flexible one-off grants so that they can support children and families through the crisis – in whatever way they feel is right and with whatever resource they feel most appropriate.  Within a few days, Corra was able to release funding to groups for very practical things, like food and electricity tokens for families struggling financially as a result of coronavirus. Other projects used the money to deliver care packages – small acts of kindness to make sure isolated families still feel connected and cared for by the service.  Some of the funding was used to buy tablets and data for young people so that they can continue their training and studies, and some was used for phones and data packages so children and families so they can stay connected to friends, family and trusted workers.

Connections will always be key.  But for now, so is Wifi and 4G.  We at Corra will continue to support third sector organisations as they navigate this distanced and digital world… but with hopes that one day soon, we will be able to turn our screens off, and have a hug instead.

*Knock knock… Who’s there?  Cows go.  Cows go who?  No silly, cows go Moo!

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