On Monday 23rd March 2020, due to the Covid-19 virus and Government lockdown ActivLives had to close all of our activity sessions, the Sudbury project and limit access to our two community gardens in Ipswich. The office closed at Brightspace and staff worked remotely, attended the gardens and two staff were furloughed for 2 months.
What we achieved through lockdown?
- We contacted 300 of our more vulnerable members and volunteers through regular befriending and welfare calls.
- We developed Activ@Home on our website/Facebook page with exercise videos, weekly quizzes, singing videos and launched our ‘That Reminds Me’ reminiscence, arts and photography project.
- We set up WhatsApp groups, so that our members could keep in touch with each other.
- We held regular zoom social and ActivSinging sessions and organised singing sessions outdoors in people’s gardens and in parks.
- Our two Community Gardens the People’s Community Garden at Maidenhall and Chantry Walled Garden at Chantry Park were closed to the general public, but were maintained by a skeleton team of staff and dedicated volunteers who followed strict social distancing and hygiene guidelines.
- We received thousands of plugs / plants for the IBC parks and our plant sales, which were nurtured by a small team of dedicated volunteers.
- We set up our plant on-line sales and delivery service to enable people to access plants during lockdown and to link with people in the community.
- A dedicated team of volunteers looked after our Bee Hives to ensure our bees survived through lockdown.
- We were able to continue providing healthy fresh produce and flowers for the local community at the People’s Community Garden, to help people through lockdown and keeping in touch with the community.
- The Staff and Trustees met regularly via Zoom sessions and this will continue for the foreseeable future.
- We continued to work on the Bridging the Gap project funded by Ipswich & East Suffolk CCG / Suffolk Community Foundation in partnership with NSFT / Willows Unit and the Recovery College holding regular zoom meetings and working on learning plans for Inclusive sport and Connecting with Nature.
- For those people who didn’t have access to the internet we printed hard copy exercise sheets, quiz booklets, produced a CD and hard copy songbooks which were distributed to members to try and keep them connected.
- We would like to thank all our funders for being very supportive and understanding through this very difficult time particularly the National Lottery, Suffolk Community Foundation, County, Borough, District & Town Councils and Councillors.
Where we are now?
- We are monitoring the Covid-19 situation and Government announcements very closely and following strict guidance on hygiene / cleaning, social distancing and the wearing of face masks.
- We have been working closely with venues on risk assessments to ensure that our members, volunteers and staff are safe and to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
- We have been working on our re-start plan to gradually re-introduce some activity sessions again to help our members improve their physical and mental health and build their confidence, after many of them have had to shield during lockdown.
- The ActivOut and About Project has been operating since July and has focussed on offering Covid-19 compliant outdoor exercise opportunities including chair-based exercise in people’s gardens, walks in local green spaces and badminton and boccia in the park. We are very grateful to Active Suffolk and Sport England for their support for this initiative.
- Inclusive Badminton, Boccia and Badminton sessions are planning to re-start in October / November 20. We are taking a gradual approach to re-opening these sessions, taking into account the myriad of Covid-19 regulations from the venues, sports governing bodies, Sport England and the DCMS.
- We have re-started some of our Step by Step falls prevention and ActivSteps sessions in Ipswich and Felixstowe, with others planned to open in October if we can. A new member of staff has been recruited to develop the Step by Step Falls Prevention projected, funded by Ipswich & East Suffolk CCG and she will be joining us in November.
- The People’s Community Garden, Chantry Walled Garden and the Sudbury Project have welcomed back existing volunteers and new volunteers to all the different projects currently underway at ActivGardens and Chantry Walled Garden is now open to the general public on Thursdays from 10am – 3pm.
- ActivSheds has re-opened on Fridays with a limited number of volunteers at each session and a new specialist session has opened on Thursdays for people with a disability or people living with Dementia and their Carers, which can offer more 1-1 support.
- The Elderflower Carers Hub has re-started at the CRESS Pavilion off Halifax Road with a new rota in place for members and volunteers, so that members, volunteers and staff can have an enjoyable session, whilst being socially distanced and keep people safe in the venue.
- WhatsApp groups, Zoom social and singing sessions will continue so that we can keep in touch with members across Ipswich and East Suffolk.
- We are continuing to develop the Bridging the Gap Project in partnership with NSFT / Willows Unit and the Recovery College and have through September been able to go back on the wards with table top gardening. Hopefully, our Boccia sessions will be able to re-start again soon.
- The Friday Friends Hub at Whitehouse and funded by the North West Ipswich Big Local Trust will hopefully re-start in October / November time. It will be a slightly shorter session with a rota in place for members, Carers and volunteers. We are currently working with the Church to ensure it is a Covid-secure venue and session. The Friday Friends zoom social sessions will continue to ensure we support our members living with Dementia and their carers.
- With the current Government announcements our two lunch clubs at St Mary at Stoke Church & the Ipswich International Church may not open until next year. However, we will be monitoring the guidance carefully and if we can open sooner we certainly will.
- Our Befriending / Welfare calls will also continue with our most vulnerable members to help reduce their anxiety, loneliness and social isolation caused by the lockdown.
We are taking things very slowly to ensure the safety of our staff, volunteers and members. We will continue to open sessions where and when we can and keep in touch with our members to make sure they are OK and inform them of any developments with our activity and social programme.
A big thank you to all our funders and the amazing donations we have received to help the organisation through these unprecedented times and to the staff and volunteers who have gone that extra mile to support our services and each other during lockdown. If you require any further information, please contact us on 01473 345350.
– Julie Stokes CEO