The coronavirus crisis has affected every walk of life, with schools closing their doors and football forced to halt while lockdown measures are in place across the country.

Business, sports clubs and charities throughout the world have had to be innovative and flexible as we get used to a ‘new normal’ while adhering to social distancing measures.

The Hibernian Community Foundation has been no different, with all regular programmes adapting to the circumstances we all find ourselves in while continuing to reach out to partners and participants in order to provide support in new ways.

Community Development Manager Lewis Melee has moved from his Easter Road office to the comfort of his living room during the lockdown, with emails and phone calls continuing remotely to ensure the Community Foundation reach out to those in need.

With advances in technology allowing communication to be maintained online, Lewis says the Foundation has had to adapt their methods in order to stay on top of their responsibilities.

“Covid-19 has undoubtedly impacted Hibernian Community Foundation with football delivery, school programmes and the use of Easter Road all paused at the moment.

“It has presented us with a new way of delivering, learning and communicating. The options we now have through tools like Google Classroom and Zoom mean that learning can take place at home or in a school-like setting, allowing wider access and providing the opportunity to engage with more people" 

“A number of learning resources have been digitised and further partnerships with the NHS, Fare Share, Cash for Kids and Police Scotland have developed significantly.”

Hibernian Community Foundation’s partnership with the football club has allowed them to carry out valuable work on a matchday to raise awareness and much-needed funds for their work in the local community.

With the football season on hold at the moment, Lewis says the charity has been working with funding organisations in order to assist with the continuation of their community programmes.

“In the past few weeks we have received funding from Foundation Scotland, Cash for Kids and the Good Things Foundation which will allow us to continue our important work.

“When the lockdown is lifted you will see a wide range of new programmes available to our local communities helping to improve their lives. We will also continue to deliver programmes and projects funded by Children in Need and The National Lottery.

“Fundraising is vital if we are to continue with our work, it is always greatly appreciated by the staff at HCF and there are always new ways in which people can raise money. Groups have recently contributed towards our weekend hunger programmes which will help families in need during the lockdown.”

Despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 crisis, the Hibernian Community Foundation is reaching out too many of their regular participants to provide support in various ways.

“We work with communities in Edinburgh and East Lothian and during this time a number of additional needs have come to light. Early indications of school closures led us to work on learning resources in partnership with East Lothian school staff ahead of partnering up with fellow Leith based community partners to start tackling food poverty.

“Some existing projects did of course have to come to a halt. While football activity has been placed on hold coaches have provided tasks for players to carry out at home, while coaching staff have been given content to continue their development and increase their knowledge of the game.

“In addition to their football, education and food initiatives, Hibernian Community Foundation also recently donated 8 iPads to the Covid-19 ward at Royal Edinburgh Hospital in early April.”

“Following a plea online for technology to be shared we felt this was a great way to pass on some of our old resources, allowing patients to maintain contact with friends and family who remained at home,” Lewis said.

 One of the Foundation’s most warmly received programmes of work during the Covid-19 shutdown has been the production of coach education materials which have been utilised by coaches across the world.

With traditional football delivery impossible due to social distancing measures, the Foundation have been innovative in their approach to training and coach education.

Gary Hocknull, Head of Football Development at Hibernian Community Foundation, has been working hard to produce a programme of learning materials for coaches looking to stay in tune during the lockdown.

“We were keen to share knowledge and best practice with those that have an appetite, as well as establish a new ‘Coaching Community’ to allow for shared learning.

“We wanted to bring a coach education experience to the homes of those that are self-isolating and battling Covid-19 while making it a worthwhile coaching CPD opportunity rather than something just to fill time. I think we’ve accomplished that. Feedback has been terrific and participants have commented on their individual learning as well as the opportunity to share.

“We’ve had over 300 coaches registered worldwide from the USA to Australia, Brazil to India, Europe and the British Isles. Google Classroom has been an excellent resource and platform for this kind of delivery and I would recommend to those out there at clubs or associations looking to engage with their membership.

As everyone continues to get used to the new normal, Hibernian Community Foundation are keen to utilise their partnerships to reach out to as many families as possible with the launch of the ‘Famous Five a Day’, a food distribution project that will work in tandem with primary schools in Leith and East Lothian.

The Foundation have been working in partnership with local Tesco stores and will utilise space at Easter Road Stadium to prepare and distribute food parcels to local families.  

Lewis says the Foundation are aiming to support families over the weekend in order to ensure children are fed in the absence of free school meals.

“Our latest programme ‘The Famous Five A Day’ will be launched the second week in May to tackle weekend hunger for families in Lochend and East Lothian. We aim to feed over 100 families a week through food parcels containing long lasting food resources, exercise cards and educational content for children to complete.

“We are targeting weekend hunger as free school meals are not provided on Saturday / Sunday and a number of foodbanks are closed. Through working with direct contacts in the community and Fare Share we hope to tackle weekend hunger in a number of homes.”

Hibernian Community Foundation continue to plan and deliver beneficial programmes in Edinburgh and East Lothian throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, you can donate to their fundraising efforts in a variety of ways. Contact HCF via Twitter, Facebook or via email ([email protected]) to find out more. 

Interview and Article - Daniel Shields May 2020