When we’re not in lockdown, I am (as many of us are) a full time ADI with a mortgage to pay and two young children to bring up. Between the priority tasks of getting the kids into school in the morning and having to pay the mortgage and other bills, non-lockdown life can feel sometimes as though it’s a conveyor belt over which you have no control. Friends and relatives can seem at times to compete for a bit of that valuable spare time that is available and the diary (both personal and work related) can become very full for weeks in advance, leaving us with very few opportunities to enjoy the luxury of doing something that we’ve actually chosen to do. This can be a bad thing in terms of your mental wellbeing.
In contrast, in lockdown, I find myself with an abundance of spare time and due to the terms under which we’re all living, there are lots of restrictions on what I can do with that time – perfect! I say it’s perfect because having a truly empty diary for the first time in 25 years or working life has meant that I’ve been able to enjoy spending some time in the house for a bit and it’s been an opportunity to do things I’ve chosen to do rather than things that are either booked in the diary or need doing.
For a personality type like mine, lockdown has been a much needed and enjoyable chance to reset the system in ways that holidays often don’t due to the presence of so many things to do and people to see.
The increased awareness, use and acceptance of video calling and video conferencing has probably been the most significant change that I’ve noticed. The technology has been around for ages, but for some reason, society has been slow to take advantage of it in favour of driving and flying everywhere to see each other in person. I’m really hoping that we’ll see this technology changing the way many people work in the future with benefits in reduced congestion, journey times and pollution, but with increased productivity.
As a case in point, in addition to being an ADI, I sit on two committees locally.
One of these is the North Staffordshire Driving Instructor’s Association (NSDIA) which has around 60 members and meets once a month for the purposes of networking and CPD.
We have a wide range of guest speakers, from representatives from the DIA and emergency services through to local DVSA examiners and managers. Our members tell us that they like being members for two reasons: to meet with other ADIs because people feel lonely in the job and to stay updated on changes within the profession.
The other committee I sit on is my local Round Table. This is part of an international network of local groups of men aged between 18 and 45 years old and we meet every other week to socialise, organise community events and administer a charity fund. Many of you will be familiar with local firework displays, beer festivals, carnivals and Santa float tours that are carried out by Round Tables (these events generate revenue that goes into the charity fund).
The NSDIA has held three meetings now using Zoom. We’ve had committee meetings, an open forum between members and a meeting in which Carly Brookfield and Karen Bransgrove from the DIA joined us as our special guest speakers. There is an added advantage to using Zoom in that these meetings can be recorded and posted to our website for those who weren’t able to attend. In the future, it’s possible that we’ll use this feature to reach more of our membership with our CPD activities and allow more people to be able to take part in those live meetings that can sometimes sell out if they feature popular guest speakers.
The Round Table has also used Zoom to take their meetings online. There have been several social nights where members have enjoyed a few beers ‘together’ and shared a bit of banter and there has been an AGM, which included a process for anonymous voting. Again, this could find itself being used more frequently in the future to involve members remotely as our business meetings return to more formal settings.
Aside from the need to cancel plans for social activity and community events until at least the autumn, the Round Table has been able to continue functioning pretty much normally throughout the lockdown. Using a combination of social media, email, Zoom and online banking alongside the good old faithful phone, we have continued to be able to receive, discuss, vote on and give support to local good causes.
Helping the foodbank
One such good cause is our local foodbank, who came to our attention when they made an urgent social media appeal for food donations.
They’ve been hit by the lockdown in several ways – many of their volunteers are over 70 years old so staying at home for their own safety; lots of people have found themselves financially challenged and falling into poverty; shops running out of stock and restrictions on how much can be purchased.
From talking to them, we found out that their problems were not really about money, it was more to do with the physical task of going out and buying the shopping that they were struggling with.
With all of that technology at our disposal, we were able to send some of our younger members out shopping and they delivered four separate car loads of stock to the foodbank consisting of not just food, but also hygiene products and a few items of basic kitchen equipment such as kettles and slow cookers.
While they did that, those of us at home set about organising a one-off kerbside collection from residents of the town. With help from several local businesses, schools, Scout groups, radio stations and newspapers we’ve been able to print and distribute flyers to almost 6,000 households and set up three teams of uniformed collectors with branded trailers to collect donations from outside people’s houses.
We even managed to source hand gel, face masks and gloves for the 28 people we picked to carry out the collection and two local shops supplied them all with breakfast and lunch. It was a fantastic community effort that was pulled together in a week and cost us just over £100 in total from our charity funds.
The response from residents was phenomenal with the foodbank itself immediately overwhelmed with the volume of stock being donated and a large storage facility we’d organised also barely able to cope. On our walks, people told us that they had always wanted to help the foodbank but didn’t know how to. Thousands of bags of shopping were donated. The foodbank is now able to meet the demands placed upon it for the foreseeable future – hopefully for long enough for the system to recover from the effects of COVID-19.
The ripple effect has led two other local Round Tables looking to help their own foodbanks in similar ways and we’re able to use our publicity processes to make sure more people know how to do it if they want to support the foodbank in the future.
Whilst I am enjoying the fact that my diary is empty at the moment, I am thankful now more than ever before that I have those extra things in my life to put some energy into which can help to make some people a bit happier.
I credit the presence of these things in part for the ease with which I find myself coping with lockdown but I recognise that this isn’t the case for everyone. If lockdown is getting you down a bit, please make contact with your local ADI Associations or local groups like the Round Table and let them welcome you into their groups – it does your mental wellbeing a lot of good to look back on something and know that you’ve played a part.
Source: ADI News
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