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Joining the Dots

Laura Frood, Engagement Co-ordinator at Articulate describes how she co-designed our new initiative called Dot to Dot with families during lock-down.

Images provided by families still taking part and preparing for Christmas ...

'When we knew there was a lock-down coming, my energy went straight to the young people that we look after; how do we keep them occupied, keep them connected and keep them creative? So I piled in; organising Zooms, gathering ideas and sending out materials. It wasn’t until one of the young people said to me 'have you got anything that Charlie can do?’ that I remembered some of our wee people have wee people of their own and began to imagine the additional stress they might be under in trying to navigate a new and uncertain landscape.

A few conversations later, this young mum and I had come up with a new project - Dot to Dot - that aims to address some of those needs by providing resources, ideas and a community for families to connect throughout (and now past) the pandemic. We secured support from the Response, Recovery and Resilience Fund and got to work in designing family art packs, activity sheets and a safe place online to 'meet' up.

This was totally new territory for me. I’ve worked with children and young people for years but rarely with families and very little with early years, so I approached experts at Starcatchers to partner with us in delivering this first phase. Heather Armstrong and Kerry Cleland were amazing in embracing this new challenge with us. They had a bank of ideas and, like us, were adapting their practice to working online, so it was great to overcome new obstacles together. Starcatchers' Wee Inspirations, simple and fun ideas and activities for under-5’s, were a great resource to send out with the requisite materials. They are original and creative and we had a brilliant response from the families who used them.

We received referrals from Social Work, other arts organisations, through our own community of young people and soon we had 17 families signed up. Working with a newly-formed group online wasn’t easy to begin with, but we continually consult with the members about what they want, aiming to keep the programme fresh and responsive. It’s going from strength to strength each week.

Dot to Dot is delivered really informally, through Facebook, Messenger, calls and texts. Spending time getting to know the families is really important to be able to respond to their needs and make sure activities are relevant and enjoyable. After I’ve delivered a box of materials, it's amazing to see the messages flooding in from families exploring the contents together. In the first round of boxes, I delivered pizza-making kits and one family made a video of Dad pretending to be the pizza delivery man. It's heart-warming to see a wee snapshot of families enjoying themselves and making new memories at this really challenging time.

Recently we ran our own Window Wonderland, with Hallowe'en themed window displays to brighten up our neighbourhoods, and we’re in the middle of another one for the festive season. The families are great at getting involved, sharing what they’ve made and encouraging each other. It’s lovely to see them forming a new network.

The feedback we’ve received so far has been brilliant, and we’ve been lucky to secure some more funding for the next phase of delivery from Comic Relief's Shift the Power scheme via the Corra Foundation. I’m really hoping that some of this can be face-to-face, but we continue to wait and see what the next six months will bring ...

One thing that is certain is that Dot to Dot will continue to run, learn and evolve to best support the families involved.'

Laura Frood, Engagement and Empowerment Co-ordinator, Articulate Cultural Trust

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