Finding my way through furlough with volunteering
Like many other people, I was furloughed when the Government announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. While I understood it was vital to protect the firm, I did feel a bit lost to begin with.
Losing the structure of a working day with no knowing what would happen was hard. At the beginning of furlough I didn’t put any pressure on myself to be productive. Anxiety levels across the world were understandably very high (including my own) so I allowed myself the time to reflect on what was going on, watch back to back Desperate Housewives, video call friends and family and drink wine. When the weekly recycling started to get a bit embarrassing, I decided I needed to get on with something to help with my mental health.
As a bit of background, our firm has four charity partners for each of our regions, which are nominated by our people every two years. Currently, we’re partnered with Crisis, Julian House, Emmaus and Melanoma UK.
All of our staff are also given two paid volunteering days per year, which renew in January, to spend helping a charity of their choice. Whether they decide to volunteer for one of our chosen charities or want to pick a worthy cause which is close to their heart, they take time out of the day job to support others.
I have volunteered for a local Mencap charity, Bath Gateway Out and About, for the past eight years as a close family friend of mine is a member of the club. Due to the pandemic and the heightened vulnerability of the group, our weekly club sessions were moved to Zoom. Having 30 people with learning disabilities on a group video chat was a challenge to begin with, but as time went on we got into the swing of things. It was really lovely to see everyone and make sure they were keeping safe.
Because we were unable to host the face to face sessions, the club leader, Becky, came up with the idea of preparing goody bags to keep our members occupied and let them know we were thinking of them. Each person at Mencap has unique disabilities. As we know everyone so well we were able to put bespoke goody bags together based on their needs and preferences. It was a mammoth task to deliver the goody bags to everyone’s home every few weeks (from a social distance of course) but we managed it and the smiles on their faces made it so worth it.
Adding conditions like autism, Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy into the mix with a worldwide pandemic is tough. We wanted the members, parents and carers to know we were there for them, even if it was from a distance or via Zoom.
I also decided to teach myself sign language via an unofficial route using BSL Charlie on YouTube. Some of our Mencap members sign and it is something I’ve always wanted to learn but had the excuse of not having enough time in the day to do so.
I am proud to say I am now able to sign over 300 words/phrases and I hope to undertake the official BSL Level 1 to gain a qualification. I do need to practice signing to another person rather than my mirror, so if anyone has sign language experience do get in touch.
In the current climate I know how lucky I am to have been furloughed and I am even luckier to have had the opportunity to come back to my position as a trainee solicitor earlier than expected. That being said, I do miss the Tiger King stage of lockdown…
For more information, see https://www.bathgatewayoutandabout.co.uk/