An important part of the service that Aspens’ provides is to develop links with the wider community, including reaching out to support those who may not have access to other services. 

During the challenging past few months of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, connecting with vulnerable people within our community has been more important than ever.

Janine Jacquin, Engagement Lead for Aspens, runs a support group called Our Voices Our Choices, or OVOC, which is open to Aspens service users and anyone in the community who has a disability or autism. 

Throughout lockdown Janine has been running a variety of fun & stimulating daily online sessions for the OVOC group and these are still going strong! 

The group, which sometimes has up to 30 participants, has enjoyed colourful fancy dress discos with silly wigs and face-paints, challenging quizzes, strength-building arm exercises to music, educational workshops and - a firm-favourite with the group - Zumba with Adele from Pembury Fitness. Adele has run Zumba classes for the group for the past 3 years, which, before lockdown, were held in a hall. The online Zumba sessions have been a big hit with the group and have attracted even more participants than before lockdown as some were previously unable to travel to the location.

Tony, one of the group’s regulars, said, “The online sessions have been so good as I’ve been able to see my friends, have a chat and have fun. Janine always makes sure everyone feels included and gets a chance to take part. It’s been like a family. The sessions have helped me so much as I’ve been shielding for 5 weeks, so I haven’t had much other contact with people. I thank Aspens from the bottom of my heart – it’s been a life-saver.” 

Group organiser Janine, said, “Some of our group members have really struggled during lockdown, especially those who have been shielding. It has been apparent that some of them have become quite isolated and lonely. We all know how much better exercise and dancing to music can make us feel - the endorphins make you feel good and because the music is great everyone’s dancing and not realising they’re doing a workout. It has been really beneficial to the group’s mental health.”

Despite lockdown easing, the group recently voted to continue holding the online sessions, as they are still enjoying them so much.

For further information on the Our Voices Our Choices Group please contact Janine at: [email protected]