Photo from Eleanor Tomlinson of one of the green spaces Exeter has to offer, for which lots of us have been grateful over the last year!
Andy O’Doherty is one of the Community Physical Activity Organisers working in Wellbeing Exeter, hosted by CITY Community Trust. One of four dedicated community workers focused on linking people to opportunities to be active, Andy’s role is funded by Live and Move, the Sport England Local Delivery Pilot for Exeter and Cranbrook.
In this blog, Andy talks about the challenges for individuals and activity organisers in the pandemic, and offers some thoughts on what CAN be done!
Physical activity is essential and transformative in our communities. Sport England says, ‘when we move, we are stronger’. Nobody questions this truism: the overarching aim to become a healthier, more active culture.
How do we connect with communities during a lockdown and tiered restrictions using physical activity? How can we connect other than via the internet, if you have access to it and can use it?
And what if that isn’t enough? What if your sport or regular hobby or walk was also your main social contact?
If you’re somebody looking to become or stay active your options are online, in a family group, or exercising outdoors with one other person, following social distancing guidelines.
There are a few support groups that have an exemption and can for example walk together (following Covid guidelines), regardless of the lockdown: the risk to their mental or physical health may be greater than the risk from Covid.
If you’re an activity provider, a coach, instructor, club leader, walk leader, etc then your options are restricted to online sessions during lockdown unless you are also organising a support group and have the exemption described above.
Community funds are available if you are registered as a CIC, CIO, a social enterprise, not-for-profit, etc. If yours is a private business then financial aid is your only option it seems and that will not last indefinitely, same for any business. That said, Community funds are not endless either.
Then there’s insurance. If your national governing body advise you not to operate during a lockdown or tier, then you are unlikely to get insurance. If you buy your own cover it will be expensive and can your cover the costs? Will people sign up? Is it financially viable?
In this case an Asset Based Community Development approach is still relevant to people looking to become or stay active, but only if you can get on Zoom to do some physical activity, you can afford to (not all sessions are free, but if you look download the Exeter Leisure app you can join free sessions for as long as the leisure centres are closed). You could join one of the upcoming group discussions being run by our team on staying active as individuals, in families and support bubbles. These chats are about sharing knowledge and ideas to try yourself.
In the case of providers, you need to connect with people in new ways. So if online provision is not viable or not enough for your business to stay afloat, you may want to link with other providers, or contact community and support groups with the exemption. Or you organize alongside other providers and approach your national governing bodies, local and national government for support.
That sort of thing is outside the remit of my role, but it is an integral part of Community Development.
DO IT TOGETHER
Some of these things are very DIY. I would instead suggest using the term DIT. Do It Together. Do individual letters to MPs achieve much? I can’t say. But in my experience as a Community Worker over the years, you will achieve little on your own.
If you’d like to discuss any of this, get in touch and I can set up a Zoom meeting or session, signposting to other agencies who can give their advice. Active Devon, Live and Move, Exeter Connect, Sport England, Exeter City Council, Devon County Council, and others.
COMMUNITY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY ORGANISING
Can I get involved and co-lead with you? Or work directly in communities? I’m subject to the same restrictions and same risks as everyone else. I have to operate within the law, make sense of changing and often vague guidelines and adhere to organizational guidelines. As do my colleagues and partners within the Wellbeing Exeter network and Live and Move. I can empathize believe me, and yes this situation is frustrating. I would do more and work on the front-line within certain boundaries if I could. But I am not a one man operation.
So I focus on what can be done via digital tech and within the parameters we must now live and work under. These are unchartered waters but we can connect online while we wait to (hopefully very soon) see each other in person again.
Remember, we are still in a PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS, so we need positive action – and that requires connection and togetherness.
Let’s Do It Together!
Get in touch with Andy by email, phone or online!