Since the introduction of social distancing and lockdown rules in the UK in response to the ongoing Coronavirus crisis, Oldham’s communities and young people have faced even more and greater challenges than before.
Mahdlo has changed the way it works to support its members and community. The charity has adapted its offer to the digital space with the #VirtualMahdlo campaign – pushing the boundaries of youth work in the online world and using new technologies to reach and engage their young people in more ways than ever.
The Youth Zone has also actively supported Oldham’s coordinated response to the crisis, delivering donations to foodbanks, activity packs to families who need them, and providing a safe space for young people when they need it most, ensuring that all young people in Oldham have something to do, and someone to talk to.
In early April Mahdlo were contacted by the mum of a settled traveller family. Accessing the Youth Zone at every available opportunity, the family were regular faces at the hub attending everything from Brew Club to Family Zone sessions.
After contacting Mahdlo mum explained that she was struggling to meet the needs of every young person in her family whilst trying to maintain home school and providing activities to keep them busy and happy. They had little to no resources for activities, or means to attain them and no access to the internet so were unable to participate in Mahdlo’s virtual activities.
In response Mahdlo staff put together a bag filled with a range of different activities and resources from games and challenges, to crafts, messy and sensory play and even some sign language activities. The bags were dropped a safe distance from the family home, although the family did come to their door to say thank you.
Mum simply said, “You don’t know how much you have saved my life. Thank you.”
Mahdlo has also supported families who have had their household supplies affected by the lockdown conditions. After speaking to a family a couple of times they disclosed that they had no toilet roll, and were struggling with other essentials such as things to do and food. Again this family did not have access to smart phones or the internet and were becoming isolated.
The family were included in a food bank drop off assisted by Mahdlo staff members to ensure they had access to all they needed.
Through their conversations these families have been highlighted as “in need”; and alongside the community and local families, the Mahdlo team have felt the impact and benefit of the conversations we have had speaking to parents and young people, keeping people connected and cared for.
This has been a feeling echoed by parents and Mahdlo members who have fed back that they have felt reassured by the charity keeping in touch. For those who are vulnerable, with complicated family lives the familiar voice only a telephone call away, has been a lifeline they are “grateful” for.
One of Mahdlo’s longest standing members has recently gone through a number of significant changes in his personal life including; moving out of his family home due to difficult family relations and leaving his placement where he worked in a café. This left him with no day time provision, bringing a complete change to his regular routine and environment.
Over the past 6 months he has worked hard at becoming an independent young person and has dealt with challenging situations with maturity and positivity and has applied to go back to college.
Since the changes in Mahdlo’s provision, the Youth Zone has been in contact with this young person almost every day, to reassure him of any worries, keep him informed and engage in positive conversations with him. During the phone calls he often says ‘I can’t wait for Mahdlo to be open again’, ’I miss my routine’ and ‘I can’t wait to start my volunteering’.
Before the lockdown attending Mahdlo sessions was the only reason he left his home, so it was imperative they continued to be a major presence in his life during the outbreak.
This week, the charity has started running Zoom sessions for members, providing a space where young people can socialise with their friends and speak to a youth worker whilst taking part in adapted Mahdlo activities.
Lucy Lees, Deputy Chief Executive at Mahdlo said: “The Coronavirus outbreak has brought with it a range of challenges and difficulties to both Oldham as a whole, and Mahdlo and its members. The generosity of our patrons, supporters, and donors, and the incredible work of our hardworking staff cannot be understated. When we talk about the impact we are trying to have right now during this unprecedented period of uncertainty, we could not do it without them.”