From Connection to Action

Transition and change are inevitable. Omnipresent, ongoing, even if we do not always notice. These days, transition and change turn into our daily companion. They can carry uncertainty and fear, and often it is difficult to understand them as a friend rather than an enemy.  

Shortly before we even began to understand the extensive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, I joined the Early Intervention Team as the Wellbeing and Career Development Manager. In this blog post, I would like to share my thoughts and experiences of my first few weeks working at the Drive Forward Foundation. 

Threats and opportunities

In the past weeks, I became increasingly aware of social inequality, now so visible behind each corner. This inequality encompasses our finances, our social support networks and our mental and physical wellbeing. It targets especially those who, even without a pandemic, face economic and social hardship. Working in the social care sector made this much more evident to me. I no longer just hear about it; I am part of it and I have a desire to resolve it. 

The question that results from this is: What else can be done to support those who need it the most and how can I protect myself from spiraling down a rabbit hole of frustration? I encourage each individual, each organization and especially governments to try finding an answer to this question.  

Rather than letting grievance take over the purpose of this post, I want to make an attempt to answer this question. On a societal level, we now need to recognize a need for action. The professor, economist and former Vice President of the World Bank, Ian Godin, underlines that this crisis is an opportunity for a re-start. Governments owe it to young people to establish better education systems, more sustainable and ecological jobs, a good safety net and better health. This will only be possible if each individual takes action to support governments in getting their priorities right. 

A SNACK of a different kind

On the individual level, we need to find ways that help us to stay in touch with our emotions. I would like to introduce a concept from positive psychology that helps me to cope with the situation and accept it for what it is. Because change starts on the individual level and because our own wellbeing is the birthplace of growth and flourishing, I want to make you aware of the small mindfulness exercise SNACK.  

  • Stop  
  • Notice  
  • Accept  
  • Curious
  • Kind  

In moments that are overwhelming, I try to stop. I take a deep breath. I notice what happens. Notice my thoughts and feelings. I try not to judge them but to accept them for what they are in this moment. I invite them into my body and welcome them. Then, I remind myself to be curious. Why am I feeling this way? What might it tell me? What is the good thing about it? I try to detect what is behind the initial feeling of overwhelm and try to be kind to myself. I try to keep listening and learning about what is going on inside of me.  

Does that solve the issue? No. It doesn’t. But does it equip me with new drive, optimism and motivation to think about how I can change things in the future and to do the best I can with the possibilities I have at the moment?! Yes, it does. 

Listening and connecting

What I learned over the last weeks at Drive Forward is to value the importance of listening and connecting. As the newbie in the team, I find myself in an especially challenging situation. Dealing with my own personal transition from student to work life, getting to know a new team, finding my work routine, establishing relationships with the young people on our program and doing all of that during a global pandemic and while working from home. In dealing with all that, the feeling of gratitude, connection and support enables me to keep growing with my tasks each day. I am grateful for an amazing team that organises a virtual surprise birthday party for me, and a manager that shares words of appreciation and encouragement, and for all of the young people on our Brealthrough programme, from whom I am learning so much.  

In our Early Intervention programmes, we managed to make the best out of this situation by utilising digital communication and social media to keep connected with our young people. I am inspired by the resilience and the adaptability that I notice in the foster carers and in many of our young people in the programme. Every day I get to realise how unique this situation is for each individual.  

“We are not all on the same boat, but we are facing the same storm”, is what one foster carer told me in a virtual gettogether. It is important to recognise thuniqueness of that moment in time and to offer reliable, consistent and continuous support to our young people. As much as it is important to connect to our own bodies and to listen to our feelings, we need to keep connecting and to keep listening to those who are impacted the worst by this crisis. We now have a great opportunity to act and to establish a future in which the young generations can thrive into sustainable, healthy lives; with all our support 

I wish that all the influential corporations, political organisations and governments will one day realise what we, at Drive Forward, do on a day-to-day basis. We notice, we listen, we focus on connectionwe act, and we drive young people forward.  

Thank you for reading, maybe go on and have a SNACK now, before you continue your day 🙂

CLAUDIA RÖHLEN

WELLBEING & CAREER DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, BREAKTHROUGH PROGRAMME

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