Every day of lockdown has brought with it a new challenge and we are all learning and adapting as we go along.
But what if these adaptations and changes actually make your life much more difficult? Difficult to the point where you face verbal abuse? Our colleague Louise Jenkins manages the team at Camfan drop-in centre in Lampeter and unfortunately, she has faced exactly that.
Louise has worked for Pobl for almost 10 years and thoroughly enjoys her role. The drop-in centre sees up to 70 people a week. It is a safe place to socialise, get a healthy meal and meet friendly people.
And friendliness is at the crux of this story – because when Louise shared her experiences of the lockdown period with us, we were truly taken aback…
Life Before Lockdown, in Louise’s Words…
“I have had Trinity for 4 years. She is my third Guide Dog. I lost my sight 17 years ago. Trinity helps me with everything I do and without her I wouldn’t be able to work and live a normal life. I have no sight in one eye and tunnel vision in the other… It’s like looking down a stew.
Trinity supports me daily. She guides me to the bus stop, onto the bus, finds a seat. When I get off the bus, she takes me to the shops where I want to go.
This is a skill she has had to learn. When I first got her, an instructor would go with me and teach us routes. Since she learned the way, she follows that path each time.
She gives me the confidence and strength to take on new challenges. She’s not just my eyes, she’s my best friend and every time I go out, I put my life in her paws, she’s my guiding star.”
Then Lockdown Changed Everything
“If I catch the bus to my local shop, there is no guarantee there will be room for us. You can only sit every 3 seats, but Trinity is not good at counting and will head straight for the disabled seat.
Trinity knows the way to the local supermarket and where the entry is, however, this has now changed. The first time I went, she just walked past everyone in the queue, taking me straight to the door. I was told off for jumping the queue. Trying to find the end of the line was hard, as Trinity did not understand. She doesn’t know you have to follow the yellow spots.”
“I’ve been shouted at in shops by other customers telling me I have to be 2 metres from them, this is quite hard when you can’t see 2 metres.
Trying to walk along a pavement where people are queuing to get in a shop is hard. Trinity again doesn’t understand social distancing and will walk past them, keeping me safe off the road, but into a torrent of abuse for being too near.
At the crossing, she takes me to the button so I can press and cross safely – but again people will complain I am too close.”
What happened to #BeKind?
When we heard about Louise’s experiences, we couldn’t quite believe it. Although this year has been tough on everyone, surely we can’t have lost our compassion?
Louise says, “We used to live in a world where guide dogs were respected and everyone wanted to say hello to her. At the moment due to people’s fears I feel nervous going out.”
So really, this is a call to show some compassion, in spite of the difficult circumstances we’re in. Life is tough for everyone at the moment – and some people are finding it tougher than others, so please just remember to #BeKind. It really does go a long way.