Run out of ideas to keep them occupied? Wondering if you, or the adults you spend your days (and probably nights) are going mad in an era when if you leave the house you have to have a good excuse to give to the police?

Just popping to the shops for a short break becomes difficult. Go out more than once a week and you are frowned upon and some say that is too often! Taking someone with you is not exactly easy anymore, is it? First, the advice is to go shopping alone wherever possible. Then there are those masks everyone needs to wear. Then it is not easy keeping the six foot rule and making sure that you and everyone with you follow the one way system used by so many shops these days. It never was easy taking some people out shopping because of their appearance or behaviour or simply the noise they made drew attention to you both. Now in a time when shopping has become so stressful, it is so much harder.

But what do you do when you cannot go anywhere

It never was easy finding a social group based on an activity that you could both do. It is worse when there are no pubs open, no cafes to sit in, and the big shops you could wander round are shut. You can buy food and not much else.

What do you do? Sit and vegetate in front of the TV? Watch the same old programs about a world that seems to have disappeared? It was not too bad to start with. was it? We thought that a few weeks and it would all be over and done with. Weeks stretched into months and months have now become nearly a year. The vaccine held out some hope but then the variants started coming and who knows what will happen next.

How do we respond?

The reality is that we now have to start making adjustments in case things continue like this for the foreseeable future. We have to find new ways of living and adapt to a new world where lockdowns and social distancing could become ongoing lifestyle changes. Possibly even relearn the old skills of food storage and virtual hibernation during winter.

Yes, I do have some basic food storage tips on one of my older websites but that is not where I am going with this. That has nothing to do with crafts, does it? So what do crafts have to do with this? This was one way people used to occupy their time during the long winter season. After the harvest was safely gathered in and preserved for use during the following year it was time to prepare Christmas presents. Once the family had what they needed it was time to produce the things that they could sell at the market when they reopened.

Those were the days when everyone had a role in running the household and even the family business. Not all the adults were as able as others. Some would have been maimed after serving in the army and others would have declined due to age. Depending on the local industry some would be struggling with occupational diseases. Some things do not change.

How do you include everyone?

That was one of the challenges we faced with the offline craft group I used to co-lead. We said that it was for people with learning difficulties but the people who came had more challenges than just cognitive impairment. The first realisation of the challenge ahead was the phone call from the carer of the first person who came asking if we could cope with a wheelchair. No problem said the other leader.

Our eyes were opened when the first lady arrived. Not only did she have learning disabilities and need to use a wheelchair but there was doubt about how well she could see and she had limited use of her hands. Thankfully we could think on our feet and we rose to the challenge so well that she not only came back but word spread around the network of carers that here was something new and different. It did not take long before we had a small but vibrant group of regulars.

Now we had a new problem what were we going to do every week that would enable everyone to be involved no matter what their ability. We ran that group for four years before it collapsed due to Covid. In all, we had to find about 150 different activities. We tried hard not to do exactly the same activity twice. We learnt that Everyone CAN Craft.

Can Everyone CAN Craft go online?

After lockdown, the challenge became how do you move a group like that online. The first challenge was that the co-leader was not as happy with technology as I was. I asked a couple of other people for help but the response was disappointing, to say the least. That left me trying to work out what I could do on my own. Very often, what happened was that one of us concentrated on supporting the supporters and the other worked with the craftees. When one of us could not get there for some reason what was not easy work became very hard work.

It took a while to find the answer to that conundrum. It was to concentrate on the carers. I could do things that would give them ideas that they could use to entertain the people they were caring for. I could do things that would help support them. That does not mean that those they support could not join them after all I have done college courses online where the other learners have been visited by cats and dogs not forgetting the occasional child. It does mean that because I am human as the group leader my focus has to be on the carer.

The challenge of finding the right people to join the group starts again

It is a curious challenge as you cannot just put up posters in the local supermarket anymore. They don’t like people standing around reading them as it could be a health hazard. Anyway most of them were for events that can no longer be run because they were in buildings that cannot be used during lockdown. Many of those buildings were closed in March 2020 and as of February 2021 are unlikely to open before April 2021 at the earliest.

The online form of advertising is to use Facebook but that is not as easy as you might think. After talking to someone who is a professional when it comes to setting up Facebook adverts I realised that even Facebook gets uncomfortable targeting some people when it comes to adverts. In one sense I am pleased that they are wary about grouping people by health conditions or disabilities because that is one of the more intrusive ways of grouping people together. On the other hand, it does make it harder to reach the sort of people that I want to help. 

What do you do?

I did think of sharing the photographs of the actual things that people created but although I took the photographs it did not feel right sharing them without getting their permission. I can though share some photos of the things I made in the tradition of here is one I made earlier to give you an idea of what the finished product for today’s activity looks like.

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