My name is Fatuma Nalule and I live with my three children in Barking & Dagenham.
I volunteer with a number of organisations, all of which have had to adapt to the lockdown’s restrictions. My volunteering roles include: community research work for Barking Riverside; lead parent governor for health and safety; working with a mother and toddlers group; distributing hot food to the homeless with Christ Church; volunteering with a coffee mornings group; and facilitating a youth group called Youth Voice, where children aged 10 to 16 are uplifted through motivational speakers and are taught about various life issues.
Since the lockdown’s restrictions, I have been unable to carry out my volunteering duties in their regular manner. However, Facebook groups and Zoom calls have been created to overcome this, particularly for the mother and toddlers group and the coffee mornings circle. These groups have been a vital source of empowerment for us all, as we have been sharing parenting tips and discussing topics such as loneliness, DIY and self-love. Within these conversations, we have been reminding each other that it’s vital to surround yourself with people digitally during this lockdown in order to maintain your sanity. After all, phone calls don’t spread coronavirus.
I am also a fitness instructor and nutritionist and I have created a fitness page to share my exercises and meal plans to support the well-being of others. This is especially essential during the lockdown as it is easy to fall into bad habits. However, it is important to remember that exercise does not have to be extremely daunting, it can be done as a simple beginners routine at home.
Participatory City is another organisation that I have been volunteering with, where I have been sorting through and delivering food to be donated to anyone who is in need, regardless of whether they have COVID-19 symptoms or not.
Although it is hard to be stripped away from all of these things that give me a sense of drive and purpose, I have thankfully been able to adapt to the conditions of the pandemic and prove that community work should never have to stop.
Sadly, I have also had moments of helplessness during this lockdown. Two of my friends have passed away due to coronavirus – one was coming from Italy and had caught it there and my other friend caught it here in Barking. It has been particularly hard to adjust to the death of my friend from Barking, as we would regularly meet up for coffee on weekends. It’s tough to wake up in the mornings and suddenly remember that this can’t ever happen again. Even if I try to call her phone, it won’t be recognised. When I go on Facebook, I see her pictures and it just brings back all of the memories. Her death caused me to become really upset and too frightened to even stand on my own balcony. That’s when I realised that coronavirus isn’t a joke. I keep on thinking about my friend’s two children who were with her at home when she died. It has made me worry about the possibility of this happening to me and how my children would cope. Not being able to go to my friends’ funerals has also made this situation even more distressing as I am not able to grieve in the ‘normal’ manner. But I guess that’s life. This isn’t the first time that I’ve lost people. I’ve lost sisters. I’ve lost mothers. I’ve lost a lot of people who I consider to be family, but I have had to just move on and pray for them as I believe that God is ultimately in control.
Coming out of this lockdown, it’s important to remain cautious because the virus is still here. We don’t want to be stuck in this lockdown for the rest of our lives.
Also, I can only hope that people will continue to look out for each other, we don’t need to wait for a pandemic to check up on our neighbours. With this in mind, remember that help is out there – seek it if you need it.
Five years from now, I want to see that our communities have changed. I want us to achieve things that we’ve never done before. I want the youth to be motivated and for knife crime to stop. It’s also vital that while we’re pushing for the agenda of ‘one borough, one community’, we also need to improve the cohesion within internal family units. Children will eventually seek out things from their neighbours that they aren’t finding within their own homes. Parents need to reach out to their children through love, not fear. Without communication, nothing works. It’s crucial that we keep on improving both our internal and external communities after the lockdown has ended. This has been an extremely troubling time but we have still learned so much. So we must maintain all of the beautiful things that we have been working on.