Over the course of the next few months we are planning to bring you excerpts of a ‘Diary of a Season’, as told by the Wolves Foundation!
We are keeping in regular touch with four separate diarists with a connection to the Foundation, a mixture of staff and participants, to catch up with how they are doing and their contacts with Wolves’ official charity.
Today we have the first instalment from Rachel Smith, Health & Wellbeing Manager with the Foundation, who has had to lead on adapting the charity’s services in delivering health projects during the Covid-19 pandemic.
I first started working for Wolves Foundation just over five years ago, initially with a project called Black Country In Motion which was organised by Sport England to try and encourage people across the region to become more active.
We had eight wards to cover across the Black Country, not just in Wolverhampton, and it fitted perfectly with my background which had included completing a degree in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Birmingham.
As that project started to wrap up, opportunities emerged to become more involved with other health programmes within the Foundation, and to become a health officer working for Wolves’ official charity.
From there I got involved in the Molineux Memories group for people with dementia and their carers, and was also trained up to deliver on our X-PERT diabetes education course.
It all just snowballed from there, and while the health department was just me for a while, we have now built up a nice team and deliver a variety of projects to people from across the community.
It is a job I really enjoy, as I have always had an interest in health and physical activity, but didn’t necessarily want to go just into the world of healthcare.
I did have a wobble a couple of years ago when I went back to University to train to become a dietician on a Masters course, but I didn’t enjoy it, and it showed just how much I missed what I was doing at the Foundation.
I came back grovelling to Will (Head of Wolves Foundation) and fortunately I was able to get my old job back!
I now either oversee or deliver on the range of health initiatives organised by the Foundation.
Amongst other things we now offer Head 4 Health, a men’s mental health programme, Healthy Goals – for pre-school children, the diabetes education initiative, Molineux Memories, a Wolves Elders club where elderly people can meet together, Walking Football for Over-50s, and Nordic Walking.
There are other activities which are linked to that range of projects, and we are fortunate to be able to liaise with partners and other organisations with the city as well.
Wolves being in the Premier League has opened doors to projects like Head 4 Health and Healthy Goals, all of which has really helped us to grow as an organisation.
Obviously the Covid-19 pandemic has been a major challenge for everyone this year, and as the health department of the Foundation we wanted to make sure we could adapt and still provide some form of service to our participants.
At the heart of everything we do at the Foundation is the desire to help the community, and to encourage people to lead healthier and better lives.
With the pandemic, the aim has been to continue to follow that ambition, but, where necessary, to do it in a different way.
First of all we made sure that we were still in contact with everybody with phone calls or online contact to check people were doing o-k.
With participants from Molineux Memories and the Wolves Elders groups, we would ensure that they were being supported with regular tasks such as shopping, and help out with those when needed.
We also ran a lot of our sessions online during lockdown, until restrictions were eased and we were able to deliver face-to-face again, in keeping with Covid-secure guidelines.
I was also part of the Foundation’s response for the NHS, helping with organising the delivery of PPE equipment to local hospitals and care homes provided by Wolves’ owners Fosun, which made all of us feel like we were really doing something practical to help with the situation.
With lockdown coming back more recently, we were able to revert back to what we had been doing previously with the virtual delivery, which had actually continued in many areas alongside the face-to-face sessions.
If restrictions are eased again after December 2nd, we should be able to hit the ground running and pick up some of the face-to-face sessions again, but in the meantime we will continue to try and provide additional activities for our projects to break up lockdown a little bit.
That will include things like the return of the lockdown quiz, virtual player appearances, and training opportunities including the chance to complete an online paediatric first aid course.
It’s all about trying to use the time of lockdown as best we can for staff and participants.
When it comes to how the pandemic has affected the people who access our health projects, I would probably say it has been a mixture.
At the start of lockdown when we were waiting to see the impact, particularly on groups working around mental health, we found that some people actually coped better as they felt less pressure as they were able to work from home and keep themselves to themselves.
As time as gone on however, I think isolation has become more of a problem, particularly for those individuals who don’t want to engage online and really thrive off the face-to-face engagement.
We have had a lot of feedback from people who say they have really looked forward to weekly sessions, even in a different format, and view the contact as something of a lifeline to help keep them on track.
We have also learned a lot as a department during the pandemic and are in a far better position now to deal with the situation than we were back in March.
Everyone is a lot more competent with applications like Zoom and online delivery, and we have all come up with different ideas and know what works and what doesn’t.
Moving forward, when things hopefully return to normal, it may be that we offer a balance between face-to-face and online sessions, as some people prefer that virtual element as they don’t have to travel and it might fit in more with their schedule or with family life.
It is difficult to say there has been a positive to come out of the pandemic given the devastating effect it has had for so many people, but I think the one area which has helped is an increased focus on mental health during lockdown.
Across the whole country I think everyone has been impacted by Covid in some way, shape or form, and there is now much more discussion around how it is affecting people’s mental health.
Some of the normal activities and support mechanisms that are usually in place to help people have been unable to take place due to restrictions, but I think that has shown just how important these services are.
Just maybe, from the impact of this and the response to the pandemic, there might be more funding invested into mental health services which will help more and more people who face issues in the future.
There is certainly an increased awareness now of what people are going through, and we at the Foundation will continue to provide as much support as we can during these challenging times.
That also included many of us taking part in the Molineux Sleepout again, which this year went ‘virtual’ due to not being able to go back to Molineux.
This year I slept out in some stables and whilst I was nice and warm with all my layers on, the floor really wasn’t very comfortable at all! I didn’t get much sleep but I felt lucky in the fact I knew I was safe where I was sleeping (lying!)
Unfortunately, the reality for others isn’t the same and whilst the lack of sleep has taken a few days to catch up on I’ve been able to do that in the comfort of my nice warm bed. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it is to sleep rough every single night.
It was great to see everyone else’s sleeping arrangements and even better to see how much money we’ve raised.
Thanks for reading – and if anyone would like any information on any of our projects or the Foundation as a whole please email firstname.lastname@example.org.