Cheers to Volunteers – Staying Connected – bringing our volunteers together


Cheers to Volunteers in Volunteer Week 2020: Staying Connected – bringing our volunteers together

For nearly 10 years Magic Me has been running the Cocktails in Care Homes project, involving c.400 volunteers attending parties in care homes with c.400 residents. At the end of February we reluctantly told our Cocktails In Care Homes  volunteers that we were having to close down the project due to lack of funds. The close down was designed to be phased with an opportunity for everyone to have a last celebratory party and say goodbye or make individual arrangements to continue to see care home residents that they had come to call friends.

The covid-19 pandemic put paid to these carefully laid plans. With many care homes closing their doors to visitors even before the official lockdown began on 23rd March the possibility of actual physical Cocktails In Care Homes parties quickly became impossible.  The easy option would have been to throw our hands in the air and say ‘well that’s that then’ and move on. But Magic Me has more imagination than that and we knew that our volunteers would want to stay connected to the residents.  It was also more important than ever for those residents, and the staff who care for them, to connect with the outside world, and, in the worst moments when even that was difficult, to know that the outside world was thinking of them and wanted to stay in touch.

Our new project, The After Party, was our response to this new situation. It boldly asks something different of the Cocktails volunteers. Having signed up to chat, party, sing and dance we are now asking them to embrace their own creativity in order to connect remotely to the care home residents and staff. Bringing the results of those creative activities together Magic Me continues to share messages back and forth between the two groups using a combination of online and offline communications.

These are some pictures from our first activity – using postcards to stay in touch:

After Party postcards composite image of Nina Graveny-Edwards, Caty Delmont and Mohini Dhanji showing their postcards

And we recently received this response back from one of the care homes involved.

With our online Cocktail Hour, hosted by a different artist each month, we also give the volunteers a chance to party, to ‘mingle’ and chat with each other and to stay connected to the project. Keeping the format open to artistic experimentation, Cocktail Hour is an open format space where participants can explore a variety of artforms together; enjoy performances from guest artists and create a party space at home!

In creating the After Party we have viewed care home staff as both volunteers and participants – taking nothing for granted about how they will engage with the project – their response has been amazing, despite all that they are dealing with:

“The postcards activity hit a note with the residents, we have sent some out to our volunteers – from Magic Me and others. The legacy of this still goes on and we are still making them. It allows the residents to think about the outside.”

Activities Coordinator at an extra-care scheme in Dalston.

The After Party - care home postcard activity montage

One home has created a Cocktails ‘area’ with items from the cocktail parties to remind the residents, by the front door. The activities co-ordinator says:

“You are really making a positive impact”

That positive impact is very much down to the volunteers who are continuing to be part of the project, undertaking creative activities and sending messages through to their friends in the locked down care settings.   It is likely that many care homes will remain in lockdown longer than the rest of the population so this input from the world outside, via the volunteers, is vital to help them stay connected to the communities they are living in.

The After Party is currently funded up to the end of July but we are continuing to work to find ways to engage with all our participants and volunteers from the Cocktails In Care Homes and After Party projects beyond that date.

Find out how you can support Magic Me here.