flourishing through the pandemic

Kerstin Friend – Director at Flourish

Flourish is a Christian charity working in the Leamington Spa and Warwick area with girls aged 11-18; supporting girls to know their unique worth and be set free to Flourish to their full potential. We provide one-to-one mentoring and small group courses, through an incredible team of volunteer women from our local churches. 

 

In the midst of a turbulent year that no one could have anticipated, I wonder if, for a moment, you can take yourself back to being a teenager.  What might lockdown have looked like for you? Admittedly, depending on your age, it might have looked very different to the one teenagers are currently experiencing; No Zoom, Teams or online lessons, and maybe (like me) not even a mobile phone to text your mates or keep up with the latest crazy dance routine on Tik Tok. (I’m not sure I personally would have survived without Netflix.) However, these things aside what might it really have been like for you? I’m sure for some of you, it might have come as a welcome break from the daily trawl of school; from the bullies, or the challenges in keeping up with appearances. But I suspect that for most of us, spending 24-7 inside with our parents and siblings, the isolation from our friends and real-life interaction would have been pretty dire. 

 

A survey by Young Minds revealed that during the first lockdown, 83% of young people with a mental health need said this worsened since schools shut. In September, when schools reopened, Flourish was inundated with referrals for our support. It became very evident to schools, very quickly that for so many of the students, the lockdown has not been a positive experience. The expectations of transitioning back into the school environment smoothly proved challenging
for many. Year 10 and 11 students, in particular, told us about the stress and anxiety they were facing over the uncertainty of exams taking (or not taking) place, and the increasingly frequent testing and assessment happening in
case exams were cancelled. 

 

At Flourish we have seen a record number of referrals since April 2020, for girls struggling with heightened anxiety, self-harm, and sadly an increase in the number struggling with suicidal thoughts. At the onset of the first lockdown, we saw
many of young people’s support structures shut down; and so, we committed to remaining open for support. We moved all our face-to-face work online. An interesting experience as it turns out many young people really don’t like using Zoom… who knew? Many mentoring and group course sessions were held with our mentors looking at a picture of a ceiling, and maybe, if they were lucky, half the face of a young people they were working with might gradually make an appearance. But despite this, our volunteer team fantastically adapted to this new way of working. We are so grateful for the
team’s willingness to creatively adapt to ensure that girls who needed a safe space, who needed to be listened to, and who needed to know that despite the circumstances going on outside their control, they are uniquely valuable and
find ways to a more positive mental wellbeing. 

 

As we look ahead to schools reopening again after yet another lockdown; we find ourselves already provisionally booked for more group courses and mentoring than ever before. In particular, our new “Rebuild” course has been in real demand. Rebuild gives small groups of girls a chance to share with each other how the pandemic has affected
them, as well as build resilience for a more positive mental wellbeing. We have also recruited 6 keen new volunteer women from local churches to add to our mentor team, keen to get trained and get started and work the extra demand we are facing.

 

I think of the verse in Esther 4:14 “Perhaps you were created for such a time as this”; we are so thankful to God, who has provided us with everything we have needed to keep going and to be there for these girls as we roll through
a third national lockdown. To be a part of church serving our community at a time of great need has been such a privilege.

 

You can find out more about flourish at www.youcanflourish.co.ukhello@youcanflourish.co.uk 

“The support came at a very helpful time for us as it was helpful to have it running during the summer months when school is shut. It offered a discrete opportunity for my daughter to engage in a positive process that I feel has benefited her wellbeing before returning to school.” Parent.

 

“The best thing about mentoring has been speaking how I feel.  I learned strategies or watched videos to help. I have learned what beautiful means.” B, aged 12,

 

I have learnt to see a new side to myself in a sense of self-worth and the positives of myself.  Seeing it written down and on sheets makes you realise the focus is on you and you can’t control what others think. When I look back at my journal, I can see a more positive side to myself and believe the qualities about myself.”  F, aged 15 (mentored over Zoom).

 

“Both my daughter and I feel that the support and service you provide is amazing. Even during a worldwide pandemic you continued to support my daughter and myself during a very difficult time where we also lost our Nanny/Mum.  As a result, my daughter is no longer anxious, is expressing her feelings more and has a renewed belief in herself.” Mum of 13-year-old.

 

“She’s doing so good now. So proud of my baby girl!! She’s come a long way since lockdown when she became very withdrawn. It’s all thanks to you guys at flourish. Thank you so much for helping her.” Mum of mentee.

 

“The best thing about mentoring has been getting to express how I feel – because sometimes you don’t get time to talk to your friends about that kind of stuff.  It has helped me be more confident, learnt how to make new friends and be happier to speak out in class.  I think Flourish mentoring would be helpful to people who struggle with friendships because it has definitely helped me” S, aged 12.