My name is Jeorgina and I am a mother of four wonderful boys: Prince, 23; Jermaine, 16; Kimani, 13; and Marcanthony, 11. I’m originally from Angola, hence I am a Portuguese and English speaker. I’m a qualified Youth Coordinator with many years of experience running a successful CIC as a co-founder of Triangoals in Barking & Dagenham. We provide many activities such as football, ballet, Karate and Wing Chun. I’ve gained experience working in the community of Barking & Dagenham as a mentor, facilitator and participated in many important meetings and decision-making that would help to shape the future of the community.
Over the last six years, Triangoals has supported 100 young people aged between three and 21 in many areas by providing access to free programmes during the school holidays. This allows them to socialise, build friendships and learn good principles about exercising, keeping a healthy lifestyle and self-defence.
I live with my four sons and initially when the lockdown was announced, I didn’t know how to react. Before the lockdown, I led a busy life working with Helping Hands, an organisation that provides carers for kids with special needs. I would juggle my career with my voluntary work with Triangoals and I would also regularly take my sons to football. Sometimes I’d only get home by 10pm which eventually took its toll on my health. I didn’t even have time to go to the GP.
This pandemic has also been a stressful period in terms of protecting my children from harm and my heart goes out to those who have lost their loved ones. However, when the lockdown was announced, I saw it as an opportunity to focus on my health and spend some well-deserved time with my children. Thankfully, I have been able to work from home, rather than in my office, so I have had time to re-evaluate my life in terms of my career and lifestyle. I have also been teaching my children my mother tongue of Portuguese.
As an organisation, Triangoals has also had to adapt to the changes that the lockdown has created. We have ensured that young people are able to stay fit and entertained during this pandemic by bringing our sports classes online. Social media has been a vital tool for us to offer our coach-led sessions and those taking part have been encouraged to post videos of their workouts to create some healthy competition. Digitalising our classes has also made us able to reach people from a range of areas outside of Barking & Dagenham. This includes working with other organisations that we never imagined we would. The pandemic has made us have core interests in common with these groups that we didn’t have previously.
We have also created group chats and have had Zoom meetings in order to connect with the Triangoals group during this time and to see if anyone needs assistance. For Eid, we were able to connect with the Muslims within our organisation more easily. Regardless of everyone’s backgrounds, we were all able to come together in solidarity and speak about topics such as our values and our religions for the first time. I’m truly proud of Barking and Dagenham.
However, this pandemic has also been a season of grief, as I do have friends who have sadly lost loved ones and some children who attend our Triangoals classes have lost their parents. It’s really hard to figure out what to say or do in this situation but I always tell them that we are here for them whenever they need our support.
Back in Portugal, I recently lost my baby brother who was only 25 years old. He died trying to save someone drowning in the beach. He didn’t think twice, he just went straight into the water to save the person. Despite this devastating loss, it’s important for me to remind myself that my brother died as a hero. He left a huge lesson to all of us that in life, you have to be kind to others and always support them.
After his passing, I was supported by the community who called me and prayed for me, so I try to do the same now with those who have lost loved ones. One phone call can go a long way. Show humanity, show love, and show kindness. Especially now that grief is being experienced differently, whereby funerals have a restricted number of guests and individuals can’t be visited and comforted in person. This can create very unique psychological effects on those who are mourning. However, we have to stay strong and positive. We must be hopeful of a day where we will discuss the pandemic as a moment of the past.
Once the lockdown restrictions have eased, we’ll need to create support networks in order to help each other adapt to the changes, so it’s important to implement that now. My main hope is that, as a society, we continue to work as a team and provide love and support to one another. Continue to check on your neighbours and loved ones. Continue to volunteer if you can.
Those volunteering with me at Triangoals have been working extremely hard and I couldn’t have done it without them. In Barking and Dagenham, our motto is that ‘no one is left behind’. During this lockdown, we have proven that our borough’s motto is not just a statement, it’s our lifestyle too.