A backward glance

Author: Anna Heydon & Andrew Frere-Smith

Published on: 20 May 2021

What does a development worker do during lockdown?

Although it may sound like a joke, it was a genuine question and one that worried me back in March 2020. I was delighted not to have been furloughed but had no idea what my work was going to look like in the new world of isolation. Many of the groups I had been supporting were closed, network meetings were cancelled and all plans were put on hold.

Thankfully, it was not long before a ‘new normal’ emerged. Meetings went online, networking took place via Zoom, and webinars became a regular source of training. Although working from home meant working alone, it didn’t mean having to be lonely. In fact, I probably attended more meetings during lockdown than ever before. I was spared the wasted travelling time, could take more control of my diary, and was able to make coffee whenever I wanted!

From my home office in the spare bedroom, I observed people across the country looking out for one another in new ways and communities pulling together like never before. This was as true in King’s Lynn as anywhere. Local Facebook groups emerged connecting those in need with volunteers and people everywhere seemed willing to help.

Although many things had changed, my role remained much the same as before. I spent many hours writing grant applications for churches and charities. I supported King’s Lynn foodbank, night shelter and debt centre. I wrote reports, articles, and newsletters. And best of all, I continued to help new projects to emerge.

There were two initiatives in particular that I was involved with. One was a holiday hunger project offering food and activities for children, and the other a telephone befriending service for people feeling isolated, lonely, or stressed. These projects developed quickly. Organisations showed a fresh enthusiasm for partnering together and funders were more generous than they’d previously been. Bureaucracy was reduced and funds were released quickly. Despite the pandemic, we were discovering new ways of working that were more efficient and effective than before.

I hope, when we finally move forward from this challenging time, we can take with us some of the good practice we have learnt, especially those things that make a development worker’s job just a little easier!

Case Study: Two’s Company

At Imagine Norfolk Together our work revolves around bringing people, churches, and groups together to fin ways to love and support our community. At some points during the COVID-19 pandemic it has felt paralysing as we can no longer do many of the things we used to do like setting up new groups and running courses in person. But with a little bit of flexibilit and creativity we have been able to discover new ways of meeting old and new needs. For me, this has been partly through working together with Linking Lives to set up a Two’s Company project in the Great Yarmouth Borough. Two’s Company is a telephone befriending service for churches to run to support those who are feeling lonely or isolated in their local area. I was able to set up a session online for Linking Lives to explain to interested people from Great Yarmouth churches what Two’s Company was all about, and then to support those churches who wanted to pursue it to get it set up. We currently have five churches involved across the borough, with nearly 30 volunteers, and the referrals are pouring in! A number of professionals from local agencies have told me how much it is needed. God is opening new doors. – Anna Heydon

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Anna Heydon & Andrew Frere-Smith

Imagine Norfolk Together Development Worker: Great Yarmouth

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