If someone had told me in early 2020 that I would spend more than a year working from home I wouldn’t have taken them seriously. Prior to the pandemic, Luv2MeetU (L2MU – Hft’s relationship and friendship service for people with learning disabilities and/or autism) members were super active; I worked hard to support members to plan exciting events, where we could meet up as friends and have a picnic at the beach, do challenging and fun escape rooms, or even have a go at axe throwing! When the pandemic meant people had to stay home to stay safe, Luv2MeetU had to adapt and innovation was at the heart of that.
Our events in the community moved online and the members and I needed to think outside the box to stay busy and engaged. Online chats developed quickly to popular member-led and regular events such as scavenger hunts, themed quizzes, craft clubs, gardening sessions, cat bingo and Play Your Cards Right. Our most popular event by far however is Sunday morning Lego group. Our first L2MU member Gavin already had a love of Lego and we would often joke together that he lives in a Lego house, as he is so skilled at building and has his models proudly on show everywhere around his home.
We decided to run a regular session and see if other members would become interested in building. Shaun, another member, really enjoyed the initial sessions, quickly developing his skills enough to build intricate architect Lego models, while other members had a go at micro Lego. Members who had never built before quickly developed skills to build a model each week. We post members a Lego pack once a month containing four sets, and then each Sunday at 11.30am we meet to construct them together online during a Facebook video chat session… as well as having a great laugh, a catch up about the week and talk about our plans for the future.
Members have made AMAZING models, from ice cream trucks to dinosaurs and tanks to pirate ships! Gavin regularly shows off his skill and adds to his huge Lego car transporters, while Shaun often builds 3 or 4 models per session, that he gifts to his niece afterwards, Wayne joins with his Mum Carol, and Tina and Colin’s shelves are now proudly covered in various vehicles, houses and animals they have made. It has been amazing to be involved with sessions and support members to develop their interests and develop new skills. Our resident photographer Shaun has taken some fantastic photographs for us of his builds!
Hft has provided some members with their own tablets and data to allow them to join in and this has undoubtedly ensured that no members become isolated. We have decided as a group that Lego sessions will continue even when things return to normal as it’s so much fun creating and sharing our models with friends. Lego may seem like just plastic blocks, but it has been so much more for members during the pandemic, providing a base to be creative, maintain friendships as part of a fun and friendly group, develop new skills and prevent isolation.
I am so proud to work somewhere that passionately cares about the people it supports and somewhere that allows for creative ideas to be realised and genuinely member led. I have said this a million times before, but I would work for free at L2MU and Hft because the difference our service makes to people’s lives is immeasurable.