Headway Milton Keynes: Lockdown Life
A couple of months before the UK was plunged into the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, I started volunteering for my local branch of Headway – Milton Keynes.
Headway is a brain injury charity that provides support for individuals who have suffered a brain injury and their families.
I was really keen to volunteer with a fantastic charity such as Headway. I wanted to put my skills and knowledge in brain injury to good use and help support those who had been affected by brain injury. I was especially keen to volunteer for my local Milton Keynes branch as I had moved to the area relatively recently and wanted to help support my local community.
On my first day, I met with several Headway clients and had the chance to attend a music session (with some very talented guitarists and singers) and a cognitive group activity. The clients were of all different ages and had suffered a brain injury in different ways – including injuries at birth, through accidents or stroke.
There were several volunteers and we supported the clients through the activities. What struck me was how warm and welcoming everyone was!
The activities included a quiz and word challenges, all designed to help exercise the cognitive processes through a fun and collaborative way. We worked in teams. Some clients needed help with reading as they were partially sighted and others needed assistance with motivation and concentration which were aspects that had been affected because of their brain injury. The effects of a brain injury can be wide-ranging and we provided clients with the support that they needed to complete the tasks.
It was great to see how everyone connected. It was clear to me that the sessions were valued by the clients, volunteers and staff and it was lovely to meet the family members that attended too.
I couldn’t wait to attend again. I wanted to get involved with other activities such as the art group and I had signed up to volunteer at the Milton Keynes Marathon supporting Headway. However, after just two months of volunteering, we were plunged into lockdown.
But that didn’t stop the Milton Keynes branch.
Within a week or two, the Headway Facebook page was revamped with online activities for clients to get involved in. Now there are weekly video calls, quizzes and even the art club has moved online to so that clients can take part from their homes.
Headway have also introduced a befriending service which I have been involved in.
I telephone two clients weekly for a friendly chat over a cup of coffee. We talk about what they’re up to, how we’re keeping positive in lockdown, suggestions for books, films and TV and absolutely anything else. Headway have also fantastically provided crosswords and other activities to go through on the calls as a fun way of achieving something together and keeping the cognitive challenges ongoing.
The befriending service has been a fantastic way for Headway volunteers like me to be a friendly voice to vulnerable clients and to help them feel connected in these uncertain times. There are so many ways for support to be provided whether it is through video call, Facebook or over the telephone, so that even those without internet or a computer, can take part.
I have to say that I really look forward to the weekly calls with my clients. It can be a period of loneliness and isolation for everyone, no matter whether you have an injury or not. I get so much from these calls through being able to connect with my local community and have a chat each week.
I can’t wait until I can start attending the Headway sessions again in person, so that I finally meet everyone I’ve been speaking to over the phone. Even though I have only met the staff and some clients twice, I was really quickly made to feel that I was a part of a close-knit community. I’ve been getting to know the staff and other volunteers more now through email and a Zoom quiz which was great fun, but most of all I can’t wait to reconnect with all of the Headway clients.
The lockdown might have slowed us down but it certainly hasn’t stopped Headway.