The role of Activities Coordinator has changed drastically over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic due to ongoing restrictions.
The announcement of lockdown due to Covid-19 in March 2020 was a surprise to us all. In such unprecedented times, the team at Charlie House has had to adjust to new and unusual circumstances that could have never been expected. We have left to office to start working from home, seen events get cancelled or go virtual, we have held meetings over video call that would have been held in person and the services we provide families have been restricted.
One of the biggest challenges was faced by our Activities Coordinator Beth Hopkins, who within days had to come up with creative and innovative ways to provide much needed activities to the babies, children and young people and their families that we support online. In a normal day at Charlie House, the families might have been attending activities such as a sensory disco, an arts and crafts session, a visit from a Critter Keeper, various days out to new and exciting places and more. The services team were luckily able to send out initial isolation packs to the families before leaving the office. However, it was from home that the planning truly began.
Beth had to consider what would be possible to do online, “For the first time ever, I found myself googling phrases such as ‘virtual kid’s activities’ and ‘online family activities’ all of which showed no results or promising activities.” She said, “Another worthy google mention was, ‘what is Zoom?’. I can laugh at that one now!”
Her main goal was to ensure that all the activities she provided would continue to be family led. To do this, she and the services team sent out surveys to the supported families for them to fill out and provide feedback on how they might like activities online to be held. These surveys asked questions such as, ‘how regularly would you like family activities during lockdown’ and ‘do you prefer live, Zoom activities or pre-recorded videos to watch on demand?’
As Charlie House is a charity that works with and supports children, the services team, including Beth and Children and Family Support Manager Leigh Ryrie, undertook Online Safety and Awareness Training provided by the NSPCC. This ensured that they were up to date with all training and safeguarding measures with activities and services moving onto online platforms.
As soon as training was completed, surveys were answered, video filming, editing and production skills were quickly mastered and Zoom was figured out, Beth took some time to create and plan activities that the families could take part in from home. The range of activities she came up with included Live activities shared via Zoom, on demand pre-recorded videos for the families to enjoy any time they liked and postal activities sent to their doors.
The planning for a live activity follows similar procedures to planning Charlie House’s regular in-person activities. First, Beth sources the type of activity she plans on running. For instance, if she were running an art session, she would find a vendor and set up an initial meeting to ensure that the activity is suitable for the children to take part in and is adaptable to their unique needs. The vendors are given information on Charlie House and are ensured that the services team will be involved in the event to make sure that all children taking part are heard and included. When it is decided that the activity is the perfect fit for both Charlie House and the vendor, the relevant risk assessments and suitable permissions are carried out and a date is set.
Beth then creates a poster for details of the event and shares it with all Charlie House families. Upon release of the posters, families will get in touch to let the team know if they would like to attend. If items are required, such as crafting materials, the families are supplied with these via post. Families never need to bring, supply or buy anything to attend activities in-person or online, as Beth and the services team like to make sure the events are as accessible as possible. These items are sourced as soon as numbers are confirmed.
On the day of the activity, Beth and Leigh log on 15 minutes early to make sure technology is working and to catch up with the vendor about the activity. Reminders are also sent to the families to let them know the event is still on, as it is easy to forget with so much going on. During the activity, they make sure everyone taking part is comfortable by initiating conversations and introducing any families that may not have met before and overall, ensure the smooth running of the event. It is important at the end to get feedback, to get helpful and insightful knowledge directly from the Charlie House families so that the team can adapt and improve the activities they provide. The services team will set up easy-to-use polls with simple questions such as ‘did you enjoy this activity?’ and ‘would you attend another one of these sessions?’
While the role of an Activities Coordinator is ever-changing, nothing has shaped the role quite as much as the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Beth has done a fantastic job making sure family activities were adapted to fit perfectly into an online environment while considering the families who are at the heart of everything that Charlie House does. The team at Charlie House cannot wait to see the families for in-person activities in the (hopefully) near future!