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Covid and me – by Debbie

14 December 2020

Chanukah with its lights and joy is here, but Debbie, 37, feels adrift. Because of Covid, she is jobless and has stopped volunteering, activities that shaped her week. So, how does she feel about it all? “Doughnut ask!”

Debbie, source of the corniest jokes, is philosophical about government health guidelines classing those with Down’s Syndrome as extremely clinically vulnerable. After the second lockdown ended, she was first in the queue for a swim at Curtis and Staub gym in Golders Green and was pleased to be back at the JLE (Jewish Learning Exchange), in Golders Green for Shabbat morning services.

One upside of the pandemic is more quality time with her parents. Muddy Sunday walks with her mum Anne are time for a catch up. Another is the luxury of lie-ins because there’s no need to set the early morning alarm.

But without her daily routine, Debbie says. “I feel, trapped more vulnerable and less independent, and I do really enjoy my independence.”

Debbie misses two Kisharon support workers she had grown attached to – replacements have stepped in – and craves residential camps with the disability charity Kef, Jewish community events, and Shabbat meals with friends. “Eating out definitely makes Shabbat feel more special,” she says.

But what Debbie longs for most is work. Her paid job was at OGR Stock Denton solicitors in Finchley and she was a volunteer teaching assistant two days a week – three in the summer – at Mathilda Marks-Kennedy Jewish Primary School in Mill Hill. She worries the children’s Hebrew reading will deteriorate without the regular practice she did with them. She hopes both posts will resume before too long.

“I miss the social side. There was always lots going on in the school.”

Travelling was all part of the experience. She says: “Neither the school or OGR Stock Denton are that far on the bus, but it’s sociable to travel, and I always bought some nosh on the way!”

Less nosh has its benefits, and Debbie, choosing healthier food too, looks set to emerge from the pandemic more svelte than before.

Extra time during Covid hasn’t been wasted. Debbie prepared an annual household budget spreadsheet, learnt to shop online – although she prefers to go to the shops herself – and gave a talk to 30 Kisharon staff about Chanukah, part of the charity’s training for staff.

For relaxation, there’s been TV, arts and crafts and mindful colouring.

Debbie wasn’t even aware of the existence of Zoom before, but is now a regular user, and makes WhatsApp video calls to friends and family. She Zoomed into the brit of her new-born nephew Aaron in the US in early autumn.

People with Down’s Syndrome have moved up in the queue for the Covid vaccine, after hard campaigning from the Down’s Syndrome Association and Debbie is ready and waiting.

She said: “I had my flu vaccine in my right arm, the pneumonia on my left, but I’ll definitely find space for Covid!”

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Pirkei Avos
“The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G-d, and deeds of kindness.” Kisharon looks at the person not the disability, teaching Torah, Middos and Mitzvot embracing and cherishing everybody’s special talent and bringing out the best in them.