We recently caught up with Connecting for Good Cov's Changemaker University graduates. The latest group graduated from the programme in March.
Next up is Teresa and her personal journey through Changemaker University.
About Changemaker University
At the heart of Connecting for Good Cov is the power of connecting with others to bring about the change we want to see. We created Changemaker University to further build our community of Changemakers.
Changemakers commit to using what they learn to take action on isolation in their community. That might mean creating something new or supporting change that has already been sparked by Connecting for Good Cov.
"The past year has been very difficult for us all. For me during the pandemic, I haven’t been able to access my usual support networks, feeling isolated and disconnected from others despite being fortunate to not live alone and my usual routine was turned upside down.
"Chronic anxiety, fear, shielding, worsened depression and lots of other health issues kept me feeling like a prisoner in my own home at times. Especially in the first lockdown, when my only walks could be in the house or garden (I love walking). I felt like I should be doing something to help others but I felt totally helpless.
"I have many hobbies but during the first lockdown, I lost all interest and energy to do any of them. Every day felt like ‘Groundhog Day’. For the second and third lockdowns, I knew I needed something more in my life to give me a purpose.
"I heard about Changemaker University (CMU) after attending a Zoom lesson I was invited to by Melissa from the Connecting for Good Cov team. She was aware I was struggling - I am very grateful to her. I almost didn’t attend, due to my anxiety, but I am so happy I did as I was invited to Collaboration Station that evening and it kind of snowballed from there.
"I’m now involved in several groups and feeling connected to people in the community. It sounded very interesting and before I knew it I had enrolled. I just want to express my total gratitude to everyone in these groups for being so welcoming, respectful and supportive to each other.
"‘Good for the Sole’ is a walking group with a difference. As people can’t meet up at the moment, everyone records their distance. I found my purpose and volunteered to record the distances that everyone walked.
"We might be apart at the moment but this group enables anyone to feel included and connected. People share photographs and walking experiences. I see being part of ‘Good for the Sole’ as leading to an ambition of mine - to set up a walking group with a difference (all inclusive, with sensory walks, visiting the different parks in Coventry, having challenges).
"Then I started CMU via Zoom. At the first session, I seriously felt like turning my iPad off, but I’m so glad I didn’t. It was wonderful working with such compassionate people, always caring and patient with us.
"To get the most out of the experience, I had to step outside my comfort zone. I feel I have grown in confidence and can now progress with the walking groups I want to develop, obviously when it is safe to do so. CMU showed me how great it is to have an idea heard and others support.
"Anyone can feel lonely but during this pandemic some people have been totally isolated from others. We need to reach out to these people. I personally was more proactive by lockdown three - making ‘phone dates’ with friends, ‘programme dates’ with my daughter, ‘walking dates’ with the one friend I’m able to see. When out walking, smiling and saying ‘hello’ to people because that might be the only smile or hello they get that day.
"I learnt that even students that had arrived in Coventry to study felt very isolated and lonely. Even before this pandemic we were in a ‘loneliness pandemic’ with the numbers of people feeling lonely on the increase.
"I found the icebreakers fun and helped me to feel more comfortable and relaxed. I went from adding my comments in the chat box to raising my hand to speak. Being given the safe space to express myself with mutual respect was important to me.
"From there, I started to have the confidence to feedback from the breakout rooms I’d participated in. This was a big learning curve for me, as I haven’t done this for such a long time.
"We learnt about loneliness and isolation, community organising and movement building, power (my idea about power changed over the session, from believing others still had power over me to realising we all have power within and power through connection), the art of reflection, reaching your community, the art of listening, peer group sessions, the art of storytelling, the art of gathering (building your core team) and taking action.
"Despite the current restrictions we still had a graduation ceremony on Zoom which was great fun!
"CMU helped me realise that my idea was just that. I had a ‘lightbulb’ moment and realised I needed to commit to my idea, be focused, make a plan and take action. But also it needs people power (resources, people to come together and share any ideas to help make it work).
"For the first time, I believe my idea can develop into an action to connect people who have a shared interest and to help combat some loneliness in the city, whilst being active for wellbeing. It will be an inclusive group, accessible to all and full of like-minded, respectful people.
"For anyone interested, please go to the Facebook group ‘Good for the Sole’ and ensure you answer the required questions to be a part of the group. You can also email your interest.
"For now we can’t meet in person but please join the Collaboration Station on 21 April from 5.30-7pm.
"If you are thinking about becoming a Changemaker, do it! You don’t need to have an idea to start. There are so many ideas out there and there could be one you’d love to get involved with. It’s exciting and fun! You connect with like-minded people. You will be helping yourself and others combat loneliness and isolation."