Nina is a Children and Family worker at Hestia and works across several of the charity’s refuges. Nina reflects on some of her recent experiences during the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.

It’s been a challenging time during the lockdown. Normally, I do a lot of face-to-face activities with the children in the refuge – from babies right through to teenagers. It’s very hard for them to understand why they need to social distance and why they can’t play with each other. Sometimes it breaks my heart; one little boy said to me the other day, “Oh Nina, we understand we can’t play together but it’s so hard!”.

For the last two weeks I’ve had to self-isolate as I had contact with a boy in the refuge who had suspected coronavirus symptoms. He’s fine now but I’ve found this very tough. I really miss the children and I want to give them so much support – it’s hard to do that at a distance but I’m trying to be creative.

The children have all been brilliant.

With their parent’s consent I’ve been face-timing them and setting online tasks. I even sent them exercises that they could do in the garden. I won’t deny it’s frustrating at times, I’m used to knocking on their room door and saying ‘How are you? How’s school?’. I check in with the children every day and they are all doing so well. I usually call them around 11 or 12 to give them a chance to get sorted. I ask them if they need any help with their homework, send some of their work to their teachers and remind them about social distancing and washing their hands.

The other week it was a little boy’s birthday so I left him a present on his doorstep, it was only a board game but he was so pleased and sent me such a lovely message. So, I’m doing what I can but I’m missing them.

The impact of the lockdown on the children is tough. They are missing their routines and they ask me, “When will I see my friends again? When will I be back at school?”.

Two of our families in one refuge have had to self-isolate for fourteen days and they were used to going for their walk once a day so that’s been very hard on them.  When I call the children, they ask me, “When will we have our activities back and when can I play with my friends in the house?”. A lot of the families are now staying in one room and with the children being off school they are finding it very tough, especially if they have a toddler and a teenager. The mums tell me that they really appreciate the teachers now!

Some of our ladies were ready to move onto their new accommodation and that’s been delayed, so they are asking what will happen. One woman was so upset as she thought she would be out on the street until I reassured her that she has a home with us until she can move to her new flat. They are so grateful for our support and I hate not being able to give them all the answers. I think the uncertainty is very hard for everyone.

The women also miss their social time. They are used to doing things with the other women, meeting for coffee, going shopping. Now, with the children home, they have no time for themselves. It was lovely the other day when two ladies put their chairs 3 metres apart and sat and chatted with a cup of tea for a short while. That moment meant so much to them.

We are doing as much for the women as we can. We are arranging for them to get medicine and food. They were shocked when they saw that food shops were so empty a few weeks ago but it’s getting better now.

What’s great is that all the children and family workers are really pulling together. We’ve been planning lots of things the children can do for Easter and staff in the refuge have left bundles of coloured paper, card, tissue at their doors so that they can make things.

My big success this week was arranging for free Disney subscription for three months for the refuge. I’ve had to do a rota as only one family can watch at one time due to social distancing but I can’t wait to tell them.

While it’s challenging, I am so impressed by how everyone is coping - they are being so positive and understanding. They know we are all trying to do our best.