We understand that COVID-19 is impacting on many of the groups funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, but we are also very proud of how those we fund in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors are adapting their services to support and help their communities.
Over the next week we will be focusing on three of such groups that are continuing to operate and keep people connected be that preparing food parcels for key workers, redesigning their websites to include dedicated sections on COVID-19, or even running 1-1 sessions via text messages.
The first we will feature is Men’s Sheds Cymru who are using their network of sheds to make sure that nobody is left feeling lonely at this difficult time. Men’s Sheds are social groups or enterprises set up in local communities for the benefit of men. Originally set up in Australia as a way to tackle loneliness among retired men, they have now grown into a worldwide movement for men to socialise with each other. Men’s Sheds Cymru currently support 66 groups across Wales.
Robert Visintainer, of Men’s Sheds Cymru, told us: “Due to the crisis, all Men’s Sheds in Wales have now closed down and ceased their usual activities of meeting in person. Some, and also with the encouragement of Men’s Sheds Cymru, have set up online group chats via WhatsApp or Skype as well as Facebook and Twitter, and others are implementing a telephone ‘ring around’ service to keep in touch with people. We are encouraging everyone to keep in touch this way, but also not to forget those who aren’t online. The Men’s Sheds Cymru team are still working and are available to support and connect both individuals and groups.
“I think it’s good that these groups are in existence already, they have formed relationships and friendships which are now being used to keep each other company in these times, albeit remotely.
“We’ve also created a newsletter, SHarED Times. It was going to be a trial but due to the crisis we’ve decided to now make it monthly. It is available online and we’ve offered to post it out too if people can’t access it online. We’re expecting the next issue to be out in a few weeks, and we’re encouraging contributions from members.
“We are also taking part in World Men’s Sheds forum online. It was set up by Australian Men’s Sheds Association, and we have a thread in the ‘shed chatter’ forum. It’s early days yet but we hope more Welsh Men’s Sheds will join in the chat there. We’re also taking part in a weekly radio show instigated by UK Men’s Sheds Association and Frome FM.
“I’m fairly new in my role with Men’s Sheds Cymru but have been voluntarily involved with the Men’s Sheds movement for 10 years. I’ve always wanted to encourage more networking between sheds, shedders and associations from around the world. This situation has both shown the need for this but also forced our hand to make it happen sooner.
“The main thing we hope to achieve is to know that we are reaching everyone, that we haven’t missed anyone, and that everyone has an opportunity to be engaged. I would hate to think that there is someone out there who isn’t in contact and is feeling lonely.
“I think now more than ever the groups themselves will see the importance of their friendships and achievements – ones that have come about as a result of being part of a shed group, and why it is so important they keep their sheds going. We’re stronger together, even if at the moment that isn’t physically being together, and I think that sheds, and what they’ve achieved, have made the current situation a little more bearable than if there had not been sheds at all.
“The most important thing are the connections that we have; connections between people, between groups, and between organisations all working together. We’re telling people to keep talking, writing and calling, keep in touch.”
You can find out more about Men’s Sheds Cymru by clicking here.
For more information on how The National Lottery Community Fund is responding to the COVID-19 crisis, please click here.
You can also apply for National Lottery funding by clicking here.