Livability’s new chaplaincy manager Elizabeth Harrison tells us how her work is helping everyone to stay connected, until they can get back to their friendship networks in person.
Living through lockdown, especially during winter months, has been tough for many people, with isolation from the places and social groups where we belong making us feel lonely. This can be especially tough for people with disabilities, when accessible leisure facilities have been closed because of the coronavirus and it’s difficult to meet friends in person.
First off, we met online every day during Advent, to have fun, to try something new, and connect with God and each other. Over 50 people we support came along to at least one session, with activities contributed by Livability staff across the UK. Crafts, dancing, and signing songs in Makaton kept us active. A quiz from Lee, Activities Coordinator at Livability Treetops in Colchester, proved a highlight.
A group of regular attenders emerged, mostly those in a supported living context; this can mean sharing a house or flat, or living on your own, with regular support from Livability staff. Christmas 2020 was for many the first spent away from parents and extended family. We studied the ‘Accessible Bible’ together to talk about the Christmas story and imagined how we would have responded in each situation. On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we gave thanks for our independence, support staff, and everyone we love.
Debbie, who is supported by Livability South East says: “I particularly enjoyed the Christmas quiz and how at Christmas we’re thinking about the baby Jesus and celebrating his birthday, and the opportunity to meet with other Christians.”
The calls are proving a great way of building friendships, says Elizabeth. Now Zoom calls are focusing on activities, exercise and spiritual support, for those who choose this, including praying and understanding the Bible together. These weekly meetings are keeping people we support connected and forging friendships between our services.
“It’s good to have a group like this,” says Anthony, who lives at Livability Marion House. “We’re all part of the Livability family and we can meet those in other parts of the country. It’s good to speak up for one another and have our own say.”
During the Spring lockdown, chaplaincy calls are helping people to pray and understand the bible together. These weekly meetings, alongside exercise and activity sessions are keeping people we support connected and forging friendships between our services.
Many people we support are loyal members of local churches, which have supported them well during the pandemic. When we can meet in person safely, Livability will recruit volunteer chaplains to strengthen links between our services and churches, support our staff, and champion the full participation of disabled people in community life.
Livability was a member of the team that produced the ground-breaking Accessible Bible – find out more here