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Our blog 6 min read

“From a stream of small voices to a resounding big sea”

06 Mar, 2024

I joined Changing Realities (then called Covid Realities) approximately 9 months post-pandemic, when there was still a degree of uncertainty about how much longer COVID-19 was going to form part of our everyday lives.

Having 2 kids under 5-yrs at the time, with restrictions from indoor local community and leisure centres announcing thrift indefinite closure, one would assume expenses would have been going down. The truth of the matter was, I could not ‘see the wood for the trees’, as the more my kids grew, the more expenses were added.

To paint a picture of my stark reality: having a 6-month old baby required a lot of expenses such as nappies, wipes, and formula, and this took up almost a third of my Universal Credit income, before even getting to do the regular groceries shop or paying the monthly bills.

Changing Realities has given tremendous meaning to my life and, consequently, to my children’s lives, as I have been encouraged to keep fighting for the sake of their future. I have also been inspired to get involved and volunteer in my local food bank, where I am able to connect with a cross-section of local residents due to the Cost of Living crisis, which has affected even the working professionals, who normally would have been able to have coped with their grocery shopping before the rising food prices.

My mind has also been opened up to how politics in the UK is systematically unjust, and needing support is not due to the fault of its own citizens. Portrayals of those of us on low incomes by the media and outdated policies no longer reflect the reality of the country’s inhabitants’ economic situation. Having had the opportunity to be part of such a long-running project has allowed me to gain the confidence to stand up to societal norms and stigmas associated with how the outside world normally looks down on families living on a low income.

For me, the most engaging Changing Realities’ activities have been helping to plan future manifestos through creative writing workshops, zine making and voice recordings for podcasts. These were not just self-expressions of the broken social security system, which continue to exist, but also outlets where we, as participants, formed stronger bonds together.

The Zoom breakout-room conversations, in particular, have been a safe place, and we had regular mental health check-ins from the academic staff, which, as a stay at home parent, made me feel both encouraged and supported. To my surprise, the public speaking training and preparation to amplify our voices to the national press and media was initially something I shied away from, but is now what I love doing the most!

I have found that there have been many advantages of joining Changing Realities for personal and motivational reasons. From being a single parent who had been out of work due to having children, I used to think that I did not have much value outside of my household. Being part of Changing Realities not only built back my confidence, I also found a strong connection with a community from so many different walks of life; people who were interested in every small win and milestone I achieved over time. As life may also have its own dips, sometimes sitting in Zooms, when my mind occasionally had been very distant, I have never felt forced to always have an opinion, rather, I felt reassured that I can take that time for myself and only contribute when I felt the need to.

Moving forward, I will take all of my experiences from Changing Realities and use them to join my local municipality – to hopefully go on and become an elected councillor. I have developed a deep interest in the way processes like this participatory project can ignite one’s passions large enough to envision change for a whole nation. Most importantly, this election year is no different in how much all of our voices matter, as many political parties will be interested to gain votes based on informed campaign decisions, from not only the mainstream public view but also reports based on lived experiences from academic research participatory projects, like Changing Realities.

If I could sum up my experiences and journey with Changing Realities in one word, it would be COLLECTIVE! We are the embodiment of this blog title: “From a stream of small voices to a resounding big sea”.

Written by

Libby N

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