By Nayeli Toto, East Bay Program Director
Ever since shelter-in-place was enforced on March 17th of last year, FCSN faced an unprecedented challenge. Having to temporarily close our doors to many of our programs was a difficult pill to swallow for many of us but even more so for our clients. Sudden routine change with an abrupt break to their usual rituals and a change of scenery presented rapid alterations, making the situation almost too much to handle. At FCSN, our main mission coupled with our goal has always been to support our clients and their families. During this difficult time especially, our commitment to our community has truly shone brighter than ever.
In less than a week, our dedicated teams created a full spectrum of virtual classes. Day Program, SEP, and Living Services joined forces for planning and program development for classes that their clients needed, wanted and would enjoy. Together we created engaging classes and activities to keep clients’ minds engaged and learning while keeping their bodies strong.
Our dozens of classes are tailored to the needs of our different clients and are geared toward their development, their creativity and their needs to stay active. With the support from their families and caregivers, clients are joining classes from their family homes, group homes and from our Supported Living service. Our clients are able to socialize through our structured virtual gatherings while participating in different classes and engaging in giving their feedback. Clients are with their peers and staff; they learn and play while also maintaining physical activity up with fun classes.
Thanks to these innovative and creative classes, we have seen the worried and confused faces of our clients switch to happier and confident ones. Parents saw the changes, too. “I was so impressed on the number of clients who attended,” “The class was well-organized (good music)!” “My daughter had a great time! I’m sure other clients are feeling the same, too.” “Looking forward to the next Zumba class,” “FCSN teams are super Heroes during this pandemic”
We know connection is everything for our clients. We are part of their village. and being able to show them our love and support while also teaching and engaging them to have fun is our privilege.
The current pandemic has changed all of our lives in ways we never expected. Sheltering in place and the eminent threat of a virus has made our common social interactions seldom and our usual activities, such as work, gatherings and shopping have been completely transformed. Being at home full time can be relaxing for some, even busy if you undertake new projects but what about those that need more creative outlets, more social interactions and are experiencing a sense of loss by not being able to see their clients.
That is the case of one of our dear SLS staff; Lowa. Lowa is not only a known and loved direct support staff in the living services area, but she is also a dedicated art teacher for our clients. Lowa teaches a small group paper folding art class, in which once a week client gathers to create adorable crafts. During this pandemic, Lowa had to stop working and stay home, but this proved to be a challenge for her, as it has been for so many of us. Lowa however was invited to teach a virtual class for our clients once a week, and with her usual enthusiasm, Lowa gladly accepted. Lowa found her artistic outlet, her social interactions and quality time with her dear clients in a not so common way. Lowa was not used to virtual conferences or online streaming, but her dedication and desire to connect, teach and create with and for her clients guided her along the way.