In recognition of all the incredible work that our members and volunteers have been doing since the beginning of the pandemic, we launched a special new award this summer called Lockdown Legends.
We asked our members to nominate fellow WAY members who they believed had gone above and beyond the call of duty to support other members through these incredibly challenging months during the pandemic – whether through online meet ups, quizzes, online pubs or other innovative ideas.
We were overwhelmed by the number of Lockdown Legends that were nominated – and by all the fabulous stories of what WAY members have been doing for each other over the past 18 months. We decided to award three different categories of Lockdown Legend prizes, based on what our nominees told us and the number of nominations received.
Each of our 18 Lockdown Legends will receive a special swan-shaped bronze, silver or gold prize through the post in recognition of the kindness and generosity of spirit that they have showed their fellow members – in the true spirit of peer to peer support. Huge congratulations to all our nominees. In our eyes, they are all absolute legends!
Below you can meet some of our winners...
Kirsty: Supporting new members
Kirsty was nominated for setting up the weekly new member Zoom sessions, as well as setting up Saturday Night Blethers for Scotland (which then went national) and initiating a buddying scheme for new members…
“I joined WAY in April 2015 after my husband died suddenly, leaving me as a 40-year-old widow. I knew I needed to meet new people, to have new friends in my circle who got it. I became Area Contact for Central Scotland.
I quickly became very conscious of the fact that we, as widowed people, were already cut off from much of ‘normal life’. To be stuck in our houses, in our own heads, was not a good prospect during lockdown. I decided to set up Saturday Blethers for Central Scotland and that very quickly expanded to include the whole of Scotland then Cumbria and Northern Ireland.
I also set up a buddy system, which provided members with a buddy who they could contact during lockdown, someone they could check in on and someone who could check in on them. There was also potential for friendships to form. I have made amazing friendships from WAY and wanted other members to experience that too.
WAY has become my support network for so much of my life. It has integrated into my ‘normal’ life and, during lockdown, it was one of very few constants. We all know that routine can be critical in our healing process and these Zoom sessions provided that. I also felt that – being over six years into this new, often unwanted life – I was in a place where I could provide more robust support to members than I could have done earlier on.
The new member Zooms started as part of the WAY Winter Festival but it was clear from day one that these sessions were needed by many new members. I decided to continue with these sessions as long as there was a demand... and we are still going strong some eight months later.
We have already had a local coffee meet up and I have met up with some of the members from the new member Zooms, which was amazing. I think we will continue online and in person, as it gives people options to join in whenever and however they can.”
Kirsty with WAY friends
Deborah: Crafting queen
Deborah was nominated for starting an online crafting group for WAY members without children (WAY Wocs)…
“I joined WAY in May 2018, a few months after my husband died aged 39. The group has given me so much support since then. I wouldn’t have known how to cope in the first years without it. Before lockdown I occasionally organised events for fellow WAYers without children (WAY Wocs), but at the onset of the pandemic I decided that it would be great set up a regular Zoom meet up that combined a hobby people could do from home and the opportunity to connect, but without the pressure of having to talk much on screen if people didn’t want to.
This is why I set up the relaxed fortnightly Craft and Chat Zoom meetings for WAY Wocs. There are usually 4-10 members doing their own craft project while chatting away. These meetings have now been running since March 2020 and continue to do so. It has been so rewarding to see people come together from across the country and share in something they enjoy doing during such a difficult time and to welcome and offer support to newer members who had no chance to meet up in person with other WAYers during lockdown.
Despite restrictions easing I am still running the craft group every two weeks, as members really wanted the group to continue. I have also recently started organising real life events again this summer, including a Hampton Court visit and a Regent’s Canal walk.”
Heather: Zoom quiz maestro
Heather has organised weekly quizzes for local WAY members in Kent through lockdown and even organised an online Christmas panto…
“I joined WAY in 2011 after my husband Chris died of endocarditis in Christmas 2010. My parents found out about WAY from a leaflet they got from the hospital in London when Chris died. It took me a few months to be in a place to join and then a few more months to summon up the courage to attend my first event.
I attended my first event in the summer of 2011, a pub evening at the Yacht in Greenwich. I chose this event because I feel at home in pubs and am usually able to just walk into them (this is the one place I can do this)! I found the group quite easily and was amazed at how welcoming they all were. I felt like I belonged, and they got me and what I was going through. For the first time since my Chris died, I felt understood and like I wasn’t some kind of freak!!! I cried and laughed all evening.
My second WAY event was a day trip to the Kent & East Sussex Railway and Bodiam Castle. One of my new-found friends took me there as I don’t drive. It was at this event that I met a lady called Emma, who eventually became one of my best friends (we have since been on holiday together twice).
When my dad died that October, they all rallied round me and supported me through the added pain, which made a terrible event a little easier to cope with. One of the members even drove me to the hospital in London to see my dad the weekend before he died.
Unfortunately, there was nobody running WAY events in my local area so I had to go to London or Kent. Some of my new-found friends wanted things more locally so I started arranging things in the Bromley/Dartford area – pub evenings or meals out in local restaurants. They were well attended and very enjoyable. Then someone suggested I became an official Area Contact, so I did in May 2012.
I can’t remember the first event I organised as there have been so many, but I know we have had countless pub evenings in various different pubs all over the area (Beckenham, Bromley, Orpington, Sidcup…). There have been theatre visits, crazy golf games, bowling, picnics, walks, museum trips, games nights at people’s homes, a cruise up the Thames, trips to stately homes and gardens, and now we have all the Zoom events (I really hope we can keep these up when life returns to whatever passes as normal).
The pandemic really changed things but thankfully Zoom came to our rescue and brought even more people into our group. We have had a Friday quiz night every week since the start of the first lockdown (each week someone else is quizmaster). There have been whodunit events and a panto, birthday parties, and sometimes we just get together and chat.
I hope I manage to provide a welcoming presence for all members, including new ones, and make them feel like this is a good and safe place to be, where we will hold them up and wrap them in our WAY blanket. If people need a group, we are all there for them. If a one to one meet up is better at any time, I try to provide that too. I have spent time with members on their saddest anniversaries and will continue to do so if I can. We also celebrate the happy times, like birthdays, new jobs or even a new pet.
One of the most important parts of my role, as I see it, is to involve members in this amazing support group in any way I can, and to encourage new friendships – if I manage to get people together and they hit it off, I feel my purpose has been realised as they can now support each other and maybe won’t feel so alone with their grief.
I have made so many new friends through WAY, some of whom pass through on their way to the next part of their journey, but others who have come and stayed – I have met my chapter 2 with my new partner Ian and have made some truly wonderful friends (Faith, Emma, Stuart, Joanne, Bridget, Candi, Gina to name just a few) who always support me and I hope I give back to them in the same way.
WAY has been there in my darkest moments and held me together, so in my lightest times I want to give back and hope to be able to do for others what they have done for me. So if anyone else is thinking about volunteering I say go for it. It is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life.”
Heather at a WAY event