Brian, an unpaid carer, at the London Buddhist Centre

Reflect exhibition: where do unpaid carers go to relax?

Originally taken for the Reflect exhibition by the Carers Centre Tower Hamlets, which was cut short by Covid-19, these photos by local photographer Rehan Jamil show the many heritage spaces in our area where unpaid carers go to relax. 

From community centres like Breathing Space at the London Buddhist Centre , to open green areas like Victoria Park, these are the safe spaces in our area where unpaid carers choose to go when they need to unwind. Being an unpaid carer is emotionally and physically demanding, so having a place to unwind is crucial for their wellbeing.

Sadly, many of these spaces are now closed or inaccessible due to the current lockdown, especially as many carers are currently self-isolating due to their proximity to vulnerable people. 

With many of their usual harbours closed, we caught up with some of the project’s participants to learn about what it is like to be a carer during Covid-19. 

Sharron Currie cares for her son full-time, and three other loved ones on a part-time basis, and each person with a different set of emotional and physical needs. She is part of the roughly one in 12 people in Tower Hamlets who are estimated to be unpaid carers. 

Normally, to get away from her demanding job, she enjoys going on walks, and learning about the history behind local street names, buildings and structures (‘Did you know Roman Road was the original road built by Romans going all the way to Colchester?’ She asks).

But with outside trips during the pandemic limited to food shopping trips and checking on her multiple loved ones she cares for, how does she relax? 

I’m lucky I’ve got a garden,’ she says. ‘I also do the London Buddhist Centre’s online meditation sessions.’ 

She is also grateful for the social connections with the other carers from the Carers Centre Tower Hamlets (CCTH). ‘We have a Whatsapp group where we advise each other and send each other positive messages. We can talk to each other in ways we can’t talk to other people.’

Lisa Folan, another member of the Carers Centre, concurs that local support networks and being creative are the key to getting through lockdown. She cares full-time for her son, who has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (a genetic condition affecting connective tissue in the body), from which she suffers herself, and they are both in isolation due to their health condition.

‘We send each other positive messages, poems on our WhatsApp group. I love the arts, so we’ve been sharing livestreams of plays, that kind of thing. It’s been an absolute lifesaver.’ 

Bubbly and talkative, she could usually be found at the Carers Centre getting stuck in arts and crafts classes. In usual times, that is. But now, both herself and her son are in isolation due to their health condition. At times like these, social situations are all the more important. 

‘Every day, we say things like “morning peeps” on the WhatsApp group. Having to stay at home, that’s beyond our control. But the carers – we’re really nice to each other and you’re so thankful for that.’

The Reflect exhibition was originally shown in early March at Oxford House before the lockdown. While the Carers Centre is working on adapting and relaunching the exhibition once it is safe to do so, you can take a look at the portraits below in the meantime. 

If you are a carer and need support please go to www.ccth.org.uk

Sharron, a portrait at Tower Hamlets Carers Centre Exihibtion, by Rehan Jamil
Sharron at the Stepney Green Clock Tower and Fountain
Lisa, a portrait at Tower Hamlets Carers Centre Exihibtion, by Rehan Jamil
Lisa at the Carers Centre Tower Hamlets
Virginia, a portrait at Tower Hamlets Carers Centre Exihibtion, by Rehan Jamil
Virginia at Oxford House
Rifta, a portrait at Tower Hamlets Carers Centre Exihibtion, by Rehan Jamil
Rifta at Genesis Cinema
Richard, a portrait at Tower Hamlets Carers Centre Exihibtion, by Rehan Jamil
Richard at The Good Samaritan
Debra, a portrait at Tower Hamlets Carers Centre Exihibtion, by Rehan Jamil
Debra at Victoria Park
Gloria, a portrait at Tower Hamlets Carers Centre Exihibtion, by Rehan Jamil
St. Hilda’s Sonali Gardens Centre

If you liked this, you might also like to read about how caring for her son with dwarfism inspired a mother to take on the world.

 


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