I stretch my limbs after the long drive and start to gather my materials together. It is with some trepidation that I make my way to the school entrance. I’m about to deliver my first ever eczema workshop.
An hour later, as I drive home, I revel in the pleasant post-workshop euphoria. I hope that this workshop is the first of many – it had been fun, interactive and educational.
Fast forward through a few more workshops, a few more months and one global pandemic. Lockdown brings with it a swift end to our face to face school workshops.
A spanner in the works for my colleague tasked with the expansion of our school workshops UK wide. She has to abandon her carefully laid plans which are already in motion. An abrupt halt to the training of her new team of EOS school workers.
We all adjust to this new world of zooming while home schooling. As lockdown continues, she formulates a new plan to deliver the workshops online.
It feels like a leap of faith, not an uncommon feature of this strange new world. It is a pleasant surprise when the feedback from families and teachers is very positive.
Fast forward again to September 2022. My colleague moves on to pastures new. The role to take our work in schools to the next level is up for grabs. It’s an enticing opportunity. Having been with the charity from the first beginnings, I feel I can bring a real depth of knowledge to the role.
I was delighted to be successful in my application. Working closely with my colleague, Lynne, we decided to start with a blank canvas. What did we want these workshops to achieve? We wanted children with eczema to feel more accepted by their peers. And to be more engaged with their own eczema treatments. We wanted peers and teachers to have a better understanding of what it feels like to have eczema. And also to learn about practical ways in which they could help a child with eczema in school. Were we asking for the world?
Keeping in mind our many wants, we got to work, also drawing on the expertise of a health psychologist. The result was not one brand new workshop, but two! A junior workshop for nursery children up to the age of about 6. And a senior workshop for children aged 7 years and upwards.
Both workshops show a snippet of our High 5 Club animation where children describe how eczema feels. The junior workshop includes “The Itchysaurus” story which is a great read. The author even designed new stickers for the children participating in the workshop. The senior workshop allows children to try a moisture meter to see what the moisture is in their skin. They also use worksheets to explore the ways in which they can help and support each other. During their training, our passionate school workers gave these improvements their seal of approval. We were all excited to get started!
Now, after more than 20 successful new workshops, the feedback has been fantastic! It looks like our online workshops are here to stay. No stretching of limbs after a long car journey – no travel time to pay for. This cost saving means we can deliver more workshops, helping more children. We can also deliver to the remotest schools in the UK with ease.
Covid moved our eczema workshops from school to screen. But this transformation might well be one of those surprising upsides of the pandemic.