A small but perfectly formed group of interested parties attended the November ‘Bring Your Own Lunch’ where Graham Galloway from Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre brought us up to date about the work that they have been doing over the past few months.
One of the first things Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre did at the start of lockdown was undertake a tech-audit to find out what members and carers currently had and, just as importantly, were able to use. A lot of work – and additional funding – went into improving everyone’s tech skills, which has definitely paid off, but it was also important to recognise when other forms of support were more appropriate. This resulted in a variety of different approaches including 1-1 Zoom calls, group Zoom sessions, phone calls, and newsletters.
Getting input and content from the members has been valuable for the four(!!) weekly newsletters being produced, helping people to feel connected and part of the community. Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre has also found the time to be part of the Community Makers work, and found that a useful initiative to get involved with.
Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre are also in the process of registering to become part of ‘Health Walks – paths for all’, taking inspiration from work being done in Dementia Friendly Prestwick, and there has been good initial interest in this with new volunteers coming forward. The physical health of both members and carers has been affected during lockdown, making such initiatives all the more important, especially during the winter months. Pre-Covid, Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre were involved in a pilot project with The Haven Centre in Forth to create strong dementia supportive communities where families affected by dementia are connected to specialist local support. The aim was that by doing so, it would help families and communities become better able to manage the emotional and practical impact of dementia, and reduce isolation and loneliness in rural areas. The way they worked together obviously had to change during lockdown, but the project actually developed into much more, with counsellors from The Haven supporting family members who were going through a really difficult time. The final aspect of the work for Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre is that they are currently producing wellbeing packs, tailored for individual members and carers. They’ve had good input from local businesses donating items and services, with interest snowballing beyond initial expectations. Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre will be holding a virtual Christmas party in December, so the packs will be sent out to support this.
If that wasn’t enough, Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre is currently in the process of moving location! They’ve (fingers crossed) bought a new building, with plenty of plans for how to make improvements including creating a working garden, offices and potentially a shared community space. As Graham pointed out, we won’t be in lockdown forever, so they are very much planning for the future.
As the following quotes illustrate, the vast amount of work being done by Graham and his team at Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre has very much been appreciated and made a difference:
“The ladies from Kirrie Connections have been so good and have kept the contact going with us. There have been days when [wife] really didn’t feel up to chatting on Zoom but each time she was so glad when she did. You all do an amazing job with the newsletter etc. and have been able to so effectively reinvent your service in this time of lockdown” (family member)
“This has been a difficult and challenging year for everyone, and I feel that dementia sufferers and carers have been inevitably left behind. Social Work have done their best, but support has been patchy. I have been so glad of the unfailing support of really local resources like Kirrie Connections and Daycare outreach. You have all been absolutely wonderful. Gold stars for you all!” (family member)
Almost inevitably, discussions followed around funding and sustainability, and Graham said that applying for funding grants forms a large portion of his work at the moment, and he currently has around 20 grants on the go.
If you would like to get in contact with Graham at Kirrie Connections Meeting Centre, you can find them on social media: Twitter @kirrieconnect and Facebook @KirrieConnections. A recording is also available for people who missed the BYOL – Link to recording
Please note that there will be no BYOL in December due to the Christmas break, but they will return in January when Deborah Gerrard from Dementia Matters in Powys will be sharing the work they have been doing.