TtCW update: ‘Meeting up’ with Volunteer Champions during Covid-19

Time to Change Wales (TtCW) is the first national campaign to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. The TtCW campaign is delivered by a partnership of two leading Welsh mental health charities: Hafal and Mind Cymru. 

Ceri Williams, TTCW Community Engagement Officer , writes:

We often say that Champions are ‘the very heart of the Time to Change Wales campaign’ – they always support us in our work and our mission, and so we wanted to make sure that we did something in return during this difficult time. As TtCW is a team who work from Swansea, Cardiff and North Wales, we know first-hand just how important staying connected is when you cannot see each other regularly in person and so we began to think of ways we could get Champions together.

The idea for a virtual ‘Champions Cuppa and Chat’ came from our lovely Champion Sri who suggested a ‘Zoom’ meet up. We thought this was an excellent idea and worked to make it happen, and we’re so glad we did!

Here’s what Sri said: “The idea came about when I thought we should practice what we preach. TtCW Champions are the educators who promote good mental health in the community and corporate partners, Champions are also survivors or sufferers going through challenges of their own. The TtCW Champions group is a peer support group for the Champions, what better way to support each other than to talk to each other and help each other in this unprecedented crisis. I am grateful Rachelle and Ceri for making the virtual calls possible. Thank you.”

We decided to schedule three meetings initially, one in the late afternoon, one in the evening and a third one morning to try to accommodate those still working, those looking after children and those who’s schedules might be all over the place at the moment! Having shared information about the first event, we soon began to have lots of Champions signing up and our first sessions were great!

It has been so lovely to see so many familiar faces (and refreshing to talk to someone outside the household!). These meetings have not only been a good opportunity for Champions to reach out and to support each other generally, but also to identify stigma, discrimination or other difficulties people have faced due to the restrictions and changes brought about by the virus. By identifying these, we can look at how we can work to raise awareness around things such as difficultly accessing services, being unable to take time of work and usual coping mechanisms being hindered by restrictions etc. The kindness and empathy of Champions has really shone though during these conversations which has been great to see.

Although we have heard of the struggles people have had, these meetings have also been full of laughter as we share stories of what we have been up to and the acts of kindness we have seen during these strange times! We’ve heard of virtual choir practices and book clubs, people receiving flowers, cards and even books though the post (or find them on their doorstep!). We’ve heard of biscuits and other surprise items being included in essential deliveries from people helping those shielding, people saying hello to one another through windows and from driveways on their daily walks, strangers dressing up as ‘Polly Parrot’ for their daily walk to cheer up local children and many, many other examples. We’ve had examples of self-kindness too, such as taking photos on our daily walks, gardening, curling up with a good film or book, all of which are important to. Also, in classic video-calling style we have seen some fabulous onesies and met lots of pets including dogs, cats and a budgie!

We all know and advocate that ‘talking is a lifeline’, and as Sri says we as Champions know this best, and whilst we support one another all year round these virtual chats certainly seem invaluable and so we hope to continue to provide them, when we can, until we can see each other once again. Until then, stay home, stay safe and stay connected.