Lockdown and Lessons Learned
By the mentors of JEVS Independence Network: Stephanie, Annalisa, David, Brittany, Natalie, Debra, Missy, Charlene, Vy
The Lockdown: Thursday, March 12, 2020
We all learned that the entire county was going to be on lockdown the following day. This left many members finding out that work and their daily schedules were on pause, we can’t meet in groups anymore, everything in our Independence Network program communities in Narberth and Collingswood were starting to close, and there was nothing we could do to stop it. We all felt anxious, uncertain, scared. We, as staff, put on strong faces and helped to explain everything to our members and to prepare them with groceries, cleaning supplies, and other necessities. This was the worst day, and the following day was too, but we all got through it together and immediately started to innovate.
The Quarantine: March 16 and on
Since the lockdown, our entire program has evolved into something we never imagined. Our in-person supports have shifted to mainly virtual. At first I know we all felt a little awkward video chatting instead of being together. That feels weird for everyone! Over time, members have become more flexible when it comes to switching to this form of communication. More members have been engaging online, a lot of whom would not have engaged as much if we were holding our regular in-person meetings. It’s refreshing! The flexibility our virtual schedule provides is helpful because a lot of members would like to attend events, but are unable to because of their busy schedules. We have stronger relationships forming with members and staff. We are all truly alone, together.
New Challenges & New Ideas
From the start of the quarantine we knew that we wanted to offer a wide variety of virtual events to Independence Network members to keep everyone stimulated and connected. To achieve this quantity of events, we have begun to specialize in areas that we are most interested or experienced in. For instance,
- Jill and Debra have been leading members in self-care activities, such as learning relaxation techniques.
- Stephanie has taken over game night using newly discovered gaming websites and apps.
- Vy also has been using technology to bring members and staff together.
- Annalisa has been hosting cooking events to help individuals work toward their independence goals while in quarantine.
We have worked together to develop creative care packages that include supplies that can be used during self-care and art activities such as origami or meditative drawing.
Also of great importance is the number of member-led events that we have all enjoyed! Lena gave a riveting short-story reading. Connor treated us to a hilarious puppet show. Nathan showed us how to cook an emergency meal, and Jackie showed us how to properly apply makeup.
We believe that our team was able to adjust quickly and efficiently despite the abruptness of the quarantine. Everyone was on board and willing to learn how to navigate through different online mediums to provide many different virtual options to our members. We all took our own personal experiences and brought it all together and cooperated with one another to make this adjustment for both members and staff as smooth as possible.
While the future is uncertain, going forward we would like to use the technology and skills that we have learned during this difficult time to enrich our day-to-day activities. Staff members are excited by the possibility of continuing to use Zoom to facilitate more interactions between members in both program communities. Video conferencing may also prove useful to staff members as a tool for support. While leading cooking events on Zoom, multiple members are able to receive support at once while also using their own kitchen equipment.
Some of the events that we have found very successful may become regular events. Furthermore, while our community has always been open to member-led events, this period of quarantine has caused us to schedule them more regularly. In order to keep events diverse and engaging, we have had to reach out to our members more than ever as a resource and hope to continue to draw from members’ interests and skills for future events.
During some downtime, our staff, members and families have had time to jot down their thoughts, feelings and initial reactions to the pandemic. Click on the links below to read their perspectives and insights.