18 May 2020

We’re running a series of blogs from our members of staff who are continuing to work with vulnerable children and young people during the current COVID-19 crisis. Some staff are working directly with young people in our frontline housing services and others are continuing their vital work virtually.

Next in the series is Hannah, Senior Disability Coordinator for our Short Breaks play and youth schemes for children and young people with disabilities and complex needs. She tells her story, in her own words:

What’s your job and how long have you worked for YMCA East Surrey?
I am a Senior Disability Coordinator for Short Breaks, supporting children and young people aged 5–18 with disabilities and complex needs. We provide Short Breaks for families by offering a variety of play-based activities, as well as supporting young people to gain essential life skills.

In 2010, I started volunteering at YMCA East Surrey on the Yippee and Yip4Youth disability schemes. After eight months, I became a playworker and then a senior playworker. I started studying at University, alongside working regularly, and in September 2017 was promoted to Disability Play and Youth Coordinator to support schemes in Reigate and Tandridge. In November 2019, I took on further responsibilities in my current position of Senior Disability Coordinator.

What’s the best thing about your job?
I thoroughly enjoy my job at YMCA East Surrey as I get to work with some incredible children and young people. Having been at YMCA East Surrey for nearly ten years now, I have been able to see the children and young people grow and develop. It is really rewarding to know that we have been able to support them to gain essential skills, whilst having lots of fun doing it!

How has your job changed under lockdown?
Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to run our face to face Short Breaks sessions, but instead, we have offered support virtually to children and their families. We hold regular online parties where children and young people can catch up with their friends and enjoy some fun games! We also support parents and carers by keeping in touch to ensure we are doing everything possible to help them at this difficult time. We have been able to be creative with our Facebook page, posting regular videos of activities so the children and young people don’t miss out.

Describe a typical day…
A typical day for me involves being as creative as I can and filming lots of activities as well as creating a variety of activity sheets to share with children. I also keep in contact with the families by email and phone to check they are doing ok and to get any feedback from the support we have offered and for suggestions of anything else we can do. I then work closely with the rest of the Short Breaks team to share our ideas and plan for the next activities we will offer virtually.

What are the new challenges that the young people you work with are facing and how are these being overcome
The children and young people that we support are facing massive changes in their daily lives. It is very confusing for them to not be going to school or accessing Short Breaks anymore, whilst having to stay at home and still do school work. It can be difficult for their parents and carers to encourage them to complete their work and be able to offer a number of engaging activities. We have been able to provide activities through the post and online. Our online parties have helped families keep children entertained whilst having to stay at home.

Have you had any particularly memorable moments at work since lockdown began?
We may not be able to come together face to face, but we have been able to virtually. With the use of fantastic technology, the staff, children and young people were able to come together and create an amazing YMCA video! Some of the children, young people and staff from our Short Breaks team all danced along to the YMCA song at home and we put a video of this together. The children and young people loved being part of something all together!
You can watch the video here

What advice would you give to young people during lockdown?
To continue to stay safe at home, but remember to keep engaging with lots of different activities online and have as much fun as you can!