Aisling is continuing to work through the virus emergency hoping, like everyone else that life will get back to normal soon. By maintaining contact through this period with as many of our clients as possible we are determined to continue with our service and be sure that when normal service resumes we can pick up with our core work of bringing long term emigrants back to Ireland to pursue and maintain contact with their families and friends and their homeland.
In line with government guidelines Aisling workers are keeping contact safely with our locked down clients through telephone contact on a daily basis. Other clients who are less vulnerable we are able to contact at a safe distance. Many of our clients have physical and mental health issues and others have dependency problems all of which can become exacerbated by the isolating effects of the covid-19 crisis.
Our alcohol outreach worker is maintaining social distancing and working by telephone and has made hundreds of calls during the lockdown period. He has been able to keep in contact with service providers and is keeping clients reassured and in touch with services, making referrals to alcohol and dependency services, health care providers and funding regimes. Of particular concern are clients with dependency problems with alcohol and drugs and keeping contact with these vulnerable men and women is vital to their well-being where reassurance and emergency intervention can save lives.
Our outreach worker health specialist who is a registered nurse has been very busy keeping in contact with all of her clients, especially the most vulnerable of those. She is keeping telephone contact and personal contact where possible while keeping within government recommended safety guidelines. She is making referrals to other services and volunteering schemes set up in response to the crisis.
The Aisling Outreach team continues to provide as holistic service as possible and does welfare work around housing and benefits.
Our volunteer coordinator is carrying out her duties keeping in contact with all Aisling volunteers and befrienders through telephone contact and with all Aisling clients benefitting from the befriending scheme. It’s at times like these that our befriending service comes into it’s own providing that extra link to the wider world to Irish men and women who are isolated and alone otherwise and for whom a friendly voice is a lifeline. Not all Aisling clients are part of the befriending scheme but those that are benefit from the contact during the pandemic restrictions.
Aisling has linked in clients with food banks and food delivery services. We are providing a shopping service for clients under lock down who are too vulnerable to shop for essential items and medication.
Aisling is a vital link to families and friends in Ireland for vulnerable clients which is especially important at these very worrying times when that link is vital for clients’ and their families peace of mind and we maintain these lines of communication on a daily basis. For instance JM is in hospital and the outreach team has managed to make the first contact with his family in Ireland since he emigrated. MH another client sadly passed away in hospital just before the virus outbreak and. Aisling has been liaising with coroner, police, the hospital and the family in Ireland. Because of travel restrictions due to the lockdown it is most likely that Aisling will be the only mourners at his funeral.
Because of the current crisis the future for everyone is uncertain and particularly so for securing funding. One mainstay of our fundraising strategy has been the day at the races we have been organising for the last few years at Kempton and Windsor race-courses. This has become a major Irish cultural event with hundreds of Irish firms, mostly in the construction sector, paying to attend and raising £30 – £40,000 for Aisling. As it is held at the beginning of June the races at Windsor have been cancelled along with all other such events until further notice. The annual Aisling comedy benefit which has continued uninterrupted for over 20 years and is held at the Union Chapel also brings in considerable revenue (around £20,000) but is not until December and we hope that we will be able to go ahead as usual with this event.
If we come through this intact we will certainly have something to celebrate although it does mean that funds will be tight. However we have postponed all five rehabilitative trips for this year which is a major saving in our outgoing expenditure although we intend to reinstate this unique part of our service as soon as possible.