We interviewed Emily, a YMCA DownsLink Group resident and a national youth ambassador for YMCA England & Wales, to get her perspective on lockdown.
What difference has living and working with YMCA DownsLink Group made to you?
It’s helped me in a number of different ways. It’s hard to put it into a sentence but it’s given me safe space to heal, grow, mature, gain confidence and access lots of exciting opportunities.
How has the lockdown and Covid-19 affected you?
Badly. Despite the fact there have been positives, I cannot say I have enjoyed the horror of the ridiculously high and ever-growing death toll and the severe social isolation.
What have been the challenges?
My mental health and being stuck with my thoughts whilst being more socially isolated than usual, the fear of the unknown, being scared for loved ones who are at high risk, the endless anti-bac-ing of things, not having physical contact with loved ones. Seeing Black and Asian people dying at a higher rate due to systemic racism and being powerless to stop it has been extremely painful. The increased racism on my news feed from people I used to call friends, I’ve lost quite a few acquaintances I was fond of and have been grieving that but it can’t really be helped as a mixed race person how can I have friends who choose to remain blissfully ignorant and hateful when it comes to me and my communities suffering. (Although I do think if you aren’t black maybe stay friends with those people and continue to have those difficult conversations because they won’t listen to me but they might to you).
Have there been any positives from the experience? Have you learnt anything about yourself or gained new skills?
I have explored new green spaces in my local area and got to see some cute baby rabbits and other animals along the way. I think I feel less self-conscious of my body image now that I’m not so constantly bombarded with media messaging that I’m not good enough as I am.
I have started to learn the guitar. Some days are really peaceful. At the begging of the pandemic it was much easier to go exploring as my social anxiety was less because no one was around.
It has given some people time to learn about how to be anti-racist.
What difference have YMCA staff made to you, during this time?
I’ve temporarily joined the YMCA Right Here online volunteer team. The weekly planning meetings have helped me stay afloat with my mental health as the team are such a joy to be around and it’s given me structure and helped keep me occupied and empowered. It’s been a nice distraction and I’ve always wanted to properly be a member of the Right Here team, so I’ve finally got my chance.
Also, it’s helped me advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement via the YMCA Right Here Instagram page, which has helped me feel a bit less powerless and given me a place to channel my frustrations around racism and ignorance in a positive way.
In general, I’ve tried to be quite emotionally independent during the pandemic but recently I’ve realised I need a bit of help so I have sought support with stuff.
What are you most looking forward to doing after lockdown?
When the COVID threat is completely gone I look forward to hugs from people I want hugs from, falling over laughing with mates, going back to my uni class, not having to be paranoid about being infectious or other people not respecting social distancing constantly, a cheeky in store Nando’s, window shopping.
How do you think life will be different post-COVID? Positive and negative?
I don’t know, being indoors mostly I don’t know what change has been going on in the outside world. It seems like it will be the same to me after a while. I’m hoping some people will continue to try and break down the barriers caused by systemic racism. Maybe more people will wash their hands when their supposed to lol!