Supporting beneficiaries through Covid-19 - Stuart's Story

Supporting beneficiaries through Covid-19 - Stuart's Story

Stuart is a Personal Development Coordinator at Opportunity Nottingham. He has been reflecting on supporting beneficiaries during the COVID-19 lockdown:

"I find myself looking out of the kitchen window, pleased with all of the gardening I have done! But... it doesn't take me long to start thinking about how I can better support the beneficiaries I work with, in what are very strange times indeed. To be honest, I find it a very emotional time as I love being with my family, but I do miss my colleagues and beneficiaries alike. I miss the laughs, the random conversations and the support we all give each other and I don't think I would be as good at my job without it.

The point is, if I can put this much effort into a garden, I can better equip beneficiaries  by being emotionally available, actively listening and being proactive to emerging and current issues that are important to them. This gives me a sense of hope, optimism and positivity that I can help make a person's life that little bit better no matter how chaotic it may feel currently.

Despite putting myself through workouts with Joe Wicks (The Body Coach), I appreciate the pain I'm going through is nothing compared to the daily trauma my beneficiaries experience. This inspires me to do slightly different activities with them (albeit on the phone) as rather than talking about their addictions and anxieties, I try and take a little inspiration from the world around me.

The beneficiaries I work with present their own challenges, some more than others but I find talking about one of my passions – cooking, is a good way of adapting my role to offer positive support. I support two beneficiaries in particular who do not eat healthily and very rarely cook. Both usually dine on microwave or takeaway meals that are convenient but in no way nutritious. They both know how to cook, but don't know what to cook that is simple, healthy and easy to make. To support them, I drew upon experience from my own Slimming World journey, to adapt tried and tested recipes that will not only be balanced and healthy, but tasty as no one likes to eat cardboard, I know I don't!

We have been talking through what they like to eat and spaghetti bolognaise, curry and roast dinners were particular favourites. We discussed how to make these meals on a budget, and in a healthy way. Money is always tight for them both, but during lockdown other priorities can take precedent meaning buying enough food (something that you and I take for granted) has become very challenging. However, we have found new ways to cook healthier meals and both beneficiaries have informed me that they are really enjoying cooking, and have even put a little bit of weight on in the process.

Both beneficiaries were not used to eating as much food as they are doing right now, or spending so much time on something that can have such a positive impact on their mental wellbeing and physical health. I could not be more proud of their efforts, and I hope they continue to cook and enjoy their food after lockdown is eased and we go back to 'normal'.

I hope that something good will come out of this time of great uncertainty for all of the beneficiaries we support."

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