Adapting to service-provision during Covid-19: Trish O’Brien, Education and Development Assistant

Trish O’Brien is our Education and Development Assistant. She notes how her role at Ruhama has changed with the onset of the pandemic and the move to working from home, providing Ruhama services remotely.

Firstly, can I acknowledge how  grateful I am that we can continue to provide services throughout the pandemic. It truly is wonderful to work in a charity with the ability to still operate and provide services remotely. I can go to work every day without putting my health or the health of others at risk and I still have the space and time to apply myself to my work supporting others.

I actually feel that I’ve gotten to know some of our service-users even better because of Covid-19. My listening skills have been to put to use even more over the past six weeks, as our service-users find themselves in rapidly changing situations and we are listening carefully so we can best respond to their needs.  However, it has been difficult at times because it has really exposed, more than ever,  the depth of inequality that there is in Ireland. At times I have felt frustrated and a sense of powerlessness, despite my professional capabilities, given the overwhelming devastation that the pandemic has caused.

We’ve had to be creative in how we offer our services due to the changing needs of our service-users. For example, we’ve started up a peer-led parenting group over Zoom where service-users can share their parenting experiences at this difficult time. I think that the true meaning of empowerment is to give someone the means to tap into their own strengths in order to help themselves and others. ‘Sharing the love’ has been a big part of the parenting group and I think that it has helped the group members to appreciate the value of peer support as a means of giving and receiving support.

Throughout the pandemic, we have seen the advantages of being able to run classes remotely. While we offered a small number of education and development services remotely before, we are able to keep in touch more than ever with those who may be touring around Ireland or service-users who are being moved around different Direct Provision centres. In the past we could have lost touch with some of these service-users as they may have been more reluctant to engage remotely, as remote support wasn’t really seen as being as effective as face-to-face offerings. I don’t think we would have been so fast to embrace technology and to find the means to work it into the service structure had it not been for the coronavirus outbreak.

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