Don’t Tone Alone CIC, providing Community Support for the Unsung Heroes in the midst of the Global Pandemic.
By Rebekah Daunt
When the UK finally announced a lockdown on March 23rd in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, fears of a rising death toll, an overwhelmed NHS, and increased social confinement, converted inescapable undertones of anxiety into a harrowing reality for everyone’s health and well-being.
While the general public was forced to only travel when absolutely essential, and older and more vulnerable individuals were shielded from the outside world, everyone was experincing the “lockdown” in their own ways. While some appreciated a simpler life, others had a very different reality.
The life of an unpaid carer is one were boundaries between carer and cared for often get blurred, as life often revolves around the needs of the person being cared for. Those who were already depleted from caring for loved ones, found the lack of respite from 24-hour care overwhelming.
“So many people call me superwoman”, says full time carer Sonja, “but I felt like I had nowhere to go”.
Sonja, a Lithuanian woman who have been living in the UK for thirteen years, sold her business as a café owner one and a half years ago to become a full time unpaid carer for her sick and elderly mother.
“We are all caring for someone, it can be so difficult to find time for yourself, I felt empty”, she says.
Like Sonja, many unpaid carers across the UK struggled to find the time to rejuvenate their spirits while working around the clock supporting the vulnerable. In caring for her family unremittingly within the four walls of her home, Sonja was left feeling lonely, isolated, and drained.
On the onset of the “lockdown” announcement Sonja stopped the access and support of paid carer-workers as she was fearful of the virus. This meant she persisted to care for her mother alone and practially took on an additional 36-hour working week on top of her usual routines. “The pandemic made me feel more exhausted and affected me psychologically, but then I discovered Don’t Tone Alone CIC offered support online too”.
Those feelings of helplessness came to an end when Sonja reconnected with Don’t Tone Alone CIC, the community interest company that is invested in transforming the lives of those who fall outside the remit of mainstream health and fitness. Through a project they designed, delivered, and adapted for Greenwich Carers Centre, Sonja was able to reach out to one-to-one coaching.
“The sessions are very motivating, with simple concepts that contain everything together from training, emotional and nutritional support to breathing techniques. I feel alive again”.
Sonja believes that the coaching offered her new perspectives, “Chris, particularly helped me rediscover what it was to be accountable, not just in front of a coach but also for myself”.
“Chris aided me in holding up a mirror and helped me understand how to bring about change in order to restructure my life”.
The one-to-one online sessions were of great benefit to Sonja who revealed that these private online meetings made her feel comfortable enough to share her experiences and personal concerns.
“I feel more confident now, I am stronger” she says.
“When you are a carer, it is easy to forget yourself, especially in these times, but it is great to have someone who can show you the way”.
Sonja previously took part in a project Don’t Tone Alone CIC designed and delivered with Greenwich Carers Centre in 2019. Following the success of this project Greenwich Carers Centre recontracted Don’t Tone Alone CIC to design and deliver a follow up project. This was adapted at the onset of the pandemic to deliver online consultations to unpaid carers. Greenwich Carers Centre was able to effectively promote this service for unpaid carers and this is how Sonja got in touch. For the purposes of confidentiality, Sonja is a pseudoname and is used to protect the identity of the unpaid carer interviewed.