Building skills to create lasting change

Mikaela Campbell

Mikaela Campbell is a Can Do Coordinator from Conwy. She tells us how one of her Can Do groups has managed to support their local community during the pandemic.

A woman and young boy with their arms in the air

I’ve had the pleasure of running various Can Do projects in partnership with Ysgol Tir Morfa over the past few years. They are keen to tap into their local community to improve the confidence and skills of their Post 16 disabled pupils, and Can Do really compliments this. 

After a long period of school closures and furlough leave due to coronavirus last year, we were determined to kick-start our Can Do project in October 2020. This particular group was positive and very enthusiastic about making a difference. We looked at ways to help our community during the current changes that everyone was facing whilst also keeping within the aims of our project. 

How we've supported the NHS

Neither I nor the school had embarked on such a hands-on project virtually before. Still, somehow, we managed to sew and tie-dye 13 pillowcase bags for the coronavirus Ysbyty Enfys Glannau Dyfrdwy/ Deeside Rainbow Hospital staff. NHS staff use these bags to put their uniform in and wash after each shift to minimise cross-contamination. The group were genuinely committed to the task and worked so hard. The tie-dye patterns they created were so bright and colourful, and their sewing was spot on. 

This was the first time some participants had learnt how to use a sewing machine - the NHS staff were blown away by how fantastic the bags looked. We included mask extenders, moisturiser, scented candles, chocolate treats, handcrafted cards and handmade stress balls. It was a very proud day for me to hand them over and say that a group of Can Doers had made them themselves. 

Creating Christmas presents for homeless people

Towards the end of our project, we had a look at how we could help our very local community as the weather was changing and Christmas approaching. We teamed up with Souper Sunday Rhyl, who provide free meals for the homeless every Sunday.

We brainstormed some ideas of essential items that homeless people may find helpful during the winter months.  We decided on items like sanitiser, masks, tissues, wipes, plasters, hats, gloves, socks, hand cream, lip balm, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, cereal bars, small chocolate treats and a handwritten Christmas card. We packed twenty boxes and decorated each one by hand. They looked very special and Christmassy. 

Going the extra mile

I went to collect the boxes from school and was told by the teacher that one of our Can Doers, alongside her siblings, had created 50 packs to donate to children with our care boxes. The siblings had pooled together their birthday money that they’d received during lockdown.

As they could not go out and spend it, they decided to buy things like colouring packs, pens, puzzles, hot chocolate pouches with marshmallows and popcorn. They wanted to donate these to local children in need over the festive period. The packs were inspired by what they enjoy doing together as a family – watching a movie, eating treats and playing games.

They even included boxes of chocolates for the staff to share at Souper Sunday. They had wrapped everything up and handwritten Christmas cards. I was astounded by the thought, detail and kindness that had gone into the donation, especially from young people. It was a very humbling day and yet another incredibly proud one when I dropped everything off at Souper Sunday.  

Connecting with our local community

My contact at Souper Sunday was able to share out our donations between four of their projects in the local area. Their homeless service, their refuge, their mother and baby project and their outreach for young people with children. She said, ‘They were amazed by them and truly grateful’. 

The teacher from Ysgol Tir Morfa said this project had really inspired the pupils. I personally think it was a nice distraction for everyone, including me, during the very strange and unpredictable times of a global pandemic. We found a way to channel our energy into helping others whilst learning new skills and connecting with our community in a positive way – and all from a distance.