Mabel is from Sierra Leone, is a single parent caring for her young son who has ADHD, Downs’ Syndrome, and a hole in his heart. Mabel settled in the UK 11 years ago.

What changed for you as carer when we when into lockdown last year? 

At this time last year when we went into the first lockdown, I found shopping very difficult to do. I would normally do this when my son was at school but this was closed too and so we were both home together all the time. My neighbour helped me out which was good. My son is not aware of any dangers and only knows that there is a ‘virus outside’.  Not being able to see anyone was so hard and it was even harder trying to explain this to my son who missed friends and school. I really miss seeing people in person. Having GCA has given me somewhere to go and to be able to have a cry and this makes me feel better, whether that is on the phone or in the office when we could do that before Covid.

What have been the biggest challenges for you and the people you support? 

GCA is like my family and my lifeline. They have been there for me before and throughout Covid and have helped me with everything from a shoulder to cry on to applying and completing forms for all sorts of things including benefits and grants. It was so confusing. Being a single parent now (I was previously married to my son’s father) has meant my whole focus is on my son. I don’t have any time for myself or for any hobbies or interests of my own. This is difficult in ‘normal’ times but during the lockdowns it has been even more so. During the lockdowns my son and I have gone to the park a lot, walked around shops (just to look and not to buy anything). We also do some baking together, although I am not very good at this, and gardening.

My family live in Africa, in Sierra Leone, and keeping in touch is so important to me. I was successful in getting a Carers Wellbeing Grant last year which has meant I now have a laptop and can Facetime with my family – it has made a big difference in our lives.

I used to go to church every Sunday but the services had to stop. They still keep in touch though which is good.

What are your hopes and fears for the future? 

Every day I just try to be strong and put on a brave face for my son. My confidence has really grown and I feel that I am moving on a bit.

Looking ahead I am feeling very nervous about the future. The virus could happen again with another lockdown. To be honest I am not looking forward to things opening up. I will adjust to it a little bit at a time as I find it scary and I am worried for my son who is very vulnerable.  He will be starting at a special school after Easter and I am hoping that this will give me some time to do something for me like perhaps planting flowers or chatting with friends.

I had my vaccine on Saturday and this has given me hope. I have also volunteered with GCA as a Befriender and I have been matched with a lovely gentleman who I call every Monday to check he is ok. His wife recently passed away and he has been so lonely and isolated. We both look forward to our chat each week and it makes me feel happy that I am able to help someone else too.