Clean Break is participating in the Big Give Christmas Challenge 2020 and this year the funds raised are going to supporting our Members in the ever-changing crisis presented by COVID-19. Over the last year our support has ranged from one-on-one check ins, practical help and advice, care packages, Health & Wellbeing workshops, and an online creative programme. All of our programme, and other services, moved online making them inaccessible to many of our Members who don’t use computers or who relied on our building or libraries to access the digital world. One such Member was Rachel, who was unable to connect when the world went online.
Rachel came to Clean Break in 2018, following years of domestic abuse which had left her with severe depression, anxiety and a diagnosis of PTSD. As a result, Rachel was withdrawn, reclusive and spent the majority of her time isolated alone indoors, fearful about leaving the house for long periods of time. Yet Rachel was keen to reclaim control and make positive changes in her life. After an initial consultation with Members Support it was suggested that Rachel first join our Health & Wellbeing Group, where she would learn how to manage some of her complex mental health symptoms, rebuild her confidence using drama techniques and creativity, and integrate into company life in a safe low pressure environment.
After a year on the programme staff began to see a significant change in Rachel; she became more talkative, developed strong, supportive relationships with other Clean Break Members, and was eager to join our Writers Circle Group after discovering her love of poetry during the Health & Wellbeing Group; poetry gave Rachel the power to unpack some of the trauma she had experienced and the space to rewrite her own narrative and start again.
However, in March 2020 Covid-19 changed everything and Clean Break was forced to close its doors. Yet for many Members like Rachel, Clean Break was one of the few places they felt safe, supported and able to pursue a brighter future. With the building closed and the future now uncertain, Rachel was thrust back into isolation where many of her unhealthy behaviours began to return; she became reclusive, lacked motivation and no longer wrote poetry, her depression deepening as the weeks of lockdown continued. Like many other Members Rachel did not have a computer or internet access and was almost totally disconnected from her loved ones and the women she had built friendships with at Clean Break. The experience triggered increased anxiety and more prevalent symptoms of PTSD.
Rachel never felt she could learn how to use a computer; neither could she afford one, or seen it as a priority. Yet during Covid-19 Rachel was excluded from many services as they went online, including Universal Credit appointments, therapy sessions, and Clean Break’s Online Members Programme. However, thanks to dedicated emergency funding, Clean Break was able to buy Rachel a laptop and MiFi to get her online and connected at a time when internet access is fundamental.
Having a laptop changed Rachel’s experience of lockdown entirely; she was able to access Clean Break’s Online Members Programme and watch new sessions of Health & Wellbeing, Theatre Makers and Weekly Writers uploaded to Vimeo each week, giving her well needed structure and the sense of being part of an online community; she has joined various sessions on Zoom, including Yoga, Drama and Reflective Circles. The weekly newsletter sent by Clean Break gave her TV, film and theatre that she could watch online kept her uplifted and inspired creatively.
For the first time in months Rachel had a routine and access to the outside world. Rachel began to feel less isolated, more motivated, and started to write poetry again. With technical support from the Members Team Rachel’s confidence using the computer grew and she soon began pursuing more of her own interests online, including cooking and baking. As a recipient of food vouchers, Rachel never felt that she had much opportunity to be creative with her cooking. However, with the newfound freedom and independence provided through her access to the internet Rachel started researching low cost recipes online and trying out some of her own creations, something that she has found to be hugely beneficial to her mental health, now that she has the time to really experiment in the kitchen. Rachel is extremely thankful for being supported with a computer and internet access; something she never thought she could have.
Help us support more women like Rachel, whatever the future has in store for us by giving to our Big Give Christmas Challenge. Your donation will be doubled if you donate before Tuesday 8 December 2020.