Digital connections are still human connections

Cardiff People First do what they say they do…they put people first. Pre-pandemic, this was a thriving group with regular meetings, social groups and face to face interactions. They gave people the human connection we all need. But as the pandemic hit they had to find a new way to connect with their members.

Keep calm and carry online

All of a sudden! They were working from home; in a scary new world where nothing was certain. It’s more important than ever to keep in touch with their members.

Their many projects and groups had to change;

  • ‘Standing Up and Speaking Out’? Online.
  • The ‘Self-Advocacy University’? Online.
  • ‘Come Together’ groups? Online.

You get the idea…

Members suddenly had to navigate their way through video calls and instant messaging. Not everyone was already online, and even those who were still had to get used to this new way of working.

It wasn’t easy. It meant a change in work routine and making sure they had the right space and technology at home.

They also had to find the confidence to be online, star in video conferences and type instant messages.

But they were there to help and guide each other.

And it was worth it. Together they’ve built a new community and help each other during this strange new world we’re living in.

Would you like to meet some of them?

This is a photo of their training session; ‘Learning Disability Awareness in Heritage’.


When lockdown came, Joanna set up her own home office. It was hard not being able to meet up with people but she went straight into keeping in touch by phone, and setting up online meetings. She not only kept together the people who had been part of her group before, she managed to get even more people to ‘come along’ and get involved! She’s also represented people with a learning disability at online meetings, and stepped up as an online trainer.


Joe has been confidently leading training in person as Cardiff People First’s Training Officer; supporting a team of paid and volunteer trainers. But training online through Zoom was a strange experience at first, and Joe needed to adapt his style to suit. He fought through nerves and is now leading the delivery of online training to trainees from across Europe! Technical issues like connection problems don’t faze him anymore, and his skills mean that those valuable training courses continue to promote the rights of people with a learning disability.


Leaving the office to work at home was a challenge for Dawn: she’s used computers and laptops in the office and has a smartphone, but she’s not able to read or write very much. So, going completely online with only remote support could have fazed others. But Dawn has amazing self-confidence and skills at getting round barriers. Within a week she was doing things on Microsoft Teams that the rest of us didn’t know existed! She was running meetings on messenger and speaking up on zoom, and she’s been a lifeline on the phone for people who are feeling isolated.


Zarah launched Our Self Advocacy University Project in March. Then after 2 weeks, lockdown began! She not only had to work out how to work from a very busy family home, she had to deal with learning to use new technology and hold virtual meetings. She’s kept the students together every week by phone and online, still learning and exploring their skills, and when Cardiff People First gained some funding that enabled us to employ more people, 2 of those students were able to gain jobs with us!


Ryan started as a student with Cardiff People First’s Self Advocacy University project. He threw himself into our online art class and the online meetings to plan work. He was an enthusiastic participant in all events. He helped others to get online, and entirely down to his hard work, willingness and demonstration of his skills, has been successful in getting his first ever job, as Cardiff People First’s new Digital Helper!


Sarah began her journey as a student with Self Advocacy University with a few nerves. She began by taking a back seat in training sessions, but quickly showed her new found confidence and skills: running and planning events training professionals, and researching and setting out new ground rules for online meetings. She now has got her first ever job, typing out Profiles for our new Health Project!

Find out more

Find out more about Cardiff People First by visiting their website and following @CardiffPF on Twitter.

How does it feel to win?