How SSE students and fellows are adapting to the Covid-19 crisis. Part 4

20 May 2020

Sharing inspiring stories from across the SSE community, curated by Helen Mincher

Now the dust is starting to settle from the Prime Minster’s speech outlining how lockdown will ease, one thing is clear. For the next four or five months, at least, little will change. As we shift from crisis mode to operating in this ‘new normal’, managing mental health and well being through this period of isolation, particularly within vulnerable groups, is an area many of our fellows and students are focused on.

Supporting mental health through music

SSE fellow Emma Baylin created Shared Harmonies to support communities in Yorkshire. She runs workshops and vocal groups that help those with physical issues, such as respiratory disease, as well as those feeling isolated and wanting to find meaningful and creative ways to connect. Overnight, her income from corporates – delivering creative team-building workshops; the profits from which she uses to fund her community work – ground to a halt as Covid-19 hit.

Knowing how valued the singing groups were within the communities she served, Emma researched and trialled different technologies in order to continue her choirs. Anyone familiar with Zoom (and who isn’t over-familiar with Zoom at the moment?) can appreciate how difficult it must be to recreate the feeling of singing in a choir online. Emma has created clever videos, inviting people to sing along, using digital channels to retain connections with her community groups, even growing her outreach, finding new fans.

Emma is finding that her corporate clients are moving from crisis mode and are now open to her proposition of team-building and well-being again – this time online. She has also progressed her community work, creating a campaign, ‘One Song’, composing an original song based on ideas and lyrics people have submitted. Emma will then invite people to submit a recording to contribute to the final song, creating a legacy that frames this moment in time and a community coming together.

You can support Emma’s work here

SSE fellows are using singing across the country to connect and show solidarity. Yvonne Farquharson, founder of Breathe Arts Health Research and its Breathe Harmony NHS community choir, has even managed to engage the supreme songstress Mariah Carey, who retweeted their charity recording of her song ‘Anytime you need a friend’.

This beautiful version – attracting over 67k views on Youtube – was created with the MyCool Foundation to bring people together and to show appreciation for the NHS. The project worked with over 100 musicians and singers from across the world, joining together through weekly virtual rehearsals and submitting home recordings via their mobile phones.

A toddler sits on the floor next to a laptop

Sophie Simpson, Chief Wellbeing Officer

All singing, all dancing Sophie Simpson is the very embodiment of resilience and positivity that we see echoed across so many of our fellows. Claiming the title ‘Chief Wellbeing Officer’ at SS Dance & Wellbeing, she supports people’s mental health through dance. With much of her work taking place in care homes and with vulnerable groups, Sophie also faced an immediate loss of income. But stopping and giving up isn’t in Sophie’s nature. Digital service delivery was always something she knew she should embrace, but it felt alien and required an investment of time which is hard to achieve when you are knee-deep in dance workshops and face to face projects.

With traded income and Sophie’s usual timetable coming to an abrupt halt. Sophie used the time to trial and build up her digital channels. You can now find her dancing on her Facebook page, offering free dance lessons for all. Like Emma Baylin, Sophie is finding that her large funded projects are ready to start operating again, albeit online. You can hear more about Sophie’s story here

A toddler sits on the floor next to a laptop

Sandra Bhatia. SSE Trade Up Fellow

This crescendo of positivity belies the fact that the music and events industry has been heavily impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak.

SSE Fellow Sandra Bhatia was left reeling as the impact of Covid-19 forced her to cancel the OneFest Festival. OneFest supports the emergence of new talent into the industry, opening up access to a broad range of jobs and opportunity.

Whilst the future looks uncertain (who knows when we will be able to come together in large numbers again?) Sandra, like many of our fellows, has been using this enforced ‘downtime’ to research and develop the online platform. Education is such a large component of her mission and she acknowledges that whilst there is nothing like live performances to get people excited about the industry, developing a deeper digital offering will strengthen her reach and ability to achieve her mission in the long term.

Supporting mental health through technology

A toddler sits on the floor next to a laptop

Ranjit Ghosha

Ranjit Ghoshal, on the other hand, had already mastered technology, developing a fundraising platform, Million Steps. Witnessing events and fundraising opportunities being cancelled across the year and knowing the devastating impact this would have on the sector, he made the pro-version of his platform free to use for social enterprises and charities who have been hit by the crisis.

The offer consists of access to the platform, social media templates and set-up support to facilitate a way for organisations to generate funds and help to keep the nation healthy whilst at home. Contact Ranjit for more information

Supporting mental health through kindness

A toddler sits on the floor next to a laptop

Darren Howie’s Hampers of Hope

I have so many examples of this kindness being shown by fellows and students. Darren Howie, SSE Start Up student running Sacred Bean Coffee  in Derby, has collaborated with his neighbouring businesses to create and distribute care packages. These ‘Hampers of Hope’ are delivered to vulnerable groups that are isolating due to health risks, bringing a moment of joy and sense of community.

In India, SSE fellow Inderpreet, founder of Greyshades, built a volunteer network to support the high risk elderly groups they worked with. He ensured they received food and medicines, establishing a helpline and more recently, a counselling service to support their mental health through these very difficult times.

Kindness, it seems, is a very apt theme for Mental Health Awareness Week this year. It certainly runs deep in the social enterprise space.

Share your stories of positivity and hope using #SocEntSolidarity on social media.

The SSE has joined forces across the sector to launch a campaign #SaveOurSocEnts. Read more about this action and what you can do to help.