Throughout the COVID-19 health pandemic, there have been many examples of our communities responding to the exceptional circumstances to help those in need. Here, FIND – Enniskillen – shares its story.

The impact of COVID-19 on the local community has been forceful, particularly due to the speed of the lockdown happening so quickly. The beginning of lockdown brought extreme anxiety and confusion. People were looking for leadership and the financial impact on families, the community and local businesses has been significant. In addition, the community has suffered with a variety of emotional health and well-being issues such as anxiety and isolation. We do not know the significance of the mental health issues once all current restrictions are eased. We all now have a new vocabulary!

Our group, The FIND Centre, works with young people from the ages of 11–25. The impact on the young people has been significant. We have been able to keep in touch online though various platforms such as Facebook, Zoom, Instagram, Twitter etc. which has been a lifeline to some of the young people. However, as lockdown has endured it is now taking its toll. Anxiety and loneliness are the main issues. Young people want to be able to return to The FIND Centre but we will have to operate in a very different way for some time. In addition, the staff of the Centre have suffered anxiety issues and have been very creative in developing new ways of engaging with the young people.

Throughout COVID-19 FIND Centre staff were able to prepare “We Care” bags for many of the young people who attend the Centre. These bags contained food, toiletries, mindfulness items and items for school such as USB sticks. The bags were also tailormade – for example for the junior Autism Group – meaning staff were able to put in items significant for them. Each bag also contained a handwritten card from staff members with a personal message. Importantly the bags were hand delivered. One delivery which stands out was to a vulnerable young person in Belleek. This had a great affect on her as she was able to see the staff that she has a trusting relationship with. “We Care” bags were also delivered to a Traveller family who suffered a tragic bereavement of a young man who regularly attended the Centre.

During the pandemic the interaction between many of the community and voluntary groups has definitely increased. Groups have been sharing the needs of their clients and referring to each other.

As a result of lockdown, I think everybody has learnt not to take things for granted and the importance of being kind. The impact on the mental health of our young people cannot be underestimated and they will need a lot of support when restrictions are lifted.

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*Fermanagh and Omagh District Council was pleased to provide the FIND Centre with £1092 of funding support.