ROC is the UK delivery partner for COACH Mentors, which operates in Australia.

This story comes from the ROC Mentors scheme in Taunton Deane.

These have certainly been interesting times to be running a community mentoring scheme and recruiting more mentors!

Amazingly, all of our physical visits to match all 14 mentors were done 2 weeks prior to lockdown, which has meant that everyone was able to meet their families face to face just in time.

Now that physical visits can no longer happen, we have been challenged to think creatively as we focus on what we CAN do rather than what we can’t.

As a team we have been sharing ideas to inspire and encourage each other. This has led us to rethink our communication with the families as we shift our focus to video calls, texts, phone calls, Zoom etc. We have also looked into resources to support families with home-schooling which involve a range of activities such as sharing recipe ideas and then taking photos of the cooked meals to inspire and encourage them.

Addressing the unique needs of each family has been a priority for us. Therefore, we decided to introduce play packs for some specific parents who need particular support with interacting with their young children. 

We also linked up with another charity (Make Lunch) who delivered a food parcel to a ROC family.

There have been other small and encouraging stories that have developed throughout this challenging time. One mentor happened to meet his family on two separate occasions whilst running. This was particularly encouraging as he had only had 1 visit with them previously. Another family has also said that her relationship with her son had improved as she has been able to spend more time with him. Encouraging stories continue to emerge like chats over the hedge, food shopping for families and a request from a family to be shown how to do batch cooking (over the phone!)

I have been able to encourage the team to persist with their relationships via video posts, Whatsapp and Zoom meetings, particularly as families with mental health issues are more vulnerable at the moment. 

Just before lockdown we had run an information evening to recruit more mentors, amazingly 7 have applied so far so we will be looking at how we interview and train them during this time.

Overall, the emphasis has very much shifted to our dependence on verbal communication with families. When all is stripped away, we are left with the most crucial thing, CONNECTION through relationships. With that, comes many opportunities through the power of words to encourage, strengthen and inspire families, but most importantly to listen to them.

It’s great to be able to serve families during these challenging days!