Knock, knock, knock. The door is opened by Adina, wearing a jumper, jeans and a simple headscarf. She smiles a wide smile, her high cheekbones raising higher.
“Hi Adina, we’re delivering ‘make your own toilet roll bus’ kits”.
Kaleb pokes his head around his mum’s legs, his big round eyes shining and his face serious.
“Please come in”, says Adina. We sit on the sofa in the living room and show Kaleb how to turn a toilet roll into a bus. He watches everything we do and copies silently. We get out some coloured tape and make a road on the floor. Kaleb and his bus zoom along it, he smiles and Adina laughs, “well done Kaleb!”
“Pease, have some lunch”, says Adina, setting down bowls of salad, rice and bread with a clink on the glass table. We eat together.
8 months later we’re back on Church Manor for our second full hub-to-home project. We go to visit Adina again.
“I’m so excited to see them”, I say to my colleague Elodie, “can you believe it’s been a year since we saw them last? I wonder if she’ll offer us lunch again”.
I knock at the door, Adina’s twin daughters open. They lead me into the bright living room. In the far corner Adina is lying in a hospital bed on wheels, the covers pulled up to her chin, her head propped up on several pillows. I stare at the bed.
“I had a stroke”, she says. “I am ok and have a health worker to help with the children but it’s good to see you.”
“What are we going to do today?” Kaleb asks, smiling up at me.
“Would you like to turn a matchbox into a bus this time?”, I say.
“This is my road to the shops”, says Kaleb as we create a coloured tape roads on the floor in a semi-circle facing mum. Adina hands one of the twins her phone and she shows me pictures of the children balancing balloons on their head.
“I made that one and we did a dance”, says Kaleb pointing to the balloons we delivered through their letterbox last week. Kaleb shimmies round the room, his twin sisters smile and roll their eyes, Adina claps and laughs from the bed.
People often ask, “How do you find the families you work with?”
“We meet a lot of families by knocking on their door”, I explain.
“And they just let you in?” they ask with raised eyebrows.
In many cases the answer is yes, we communicate our playful methods from the first door knock with an icebreaker balloon game and families are usually very welcoming. For others trust takes longer to build. But by maintaining a consistent and playful presence that trust continues to grow at a pace that’s right for each family, whether that’s inviting us for home visits or just opening their door to take our weekly craft packs.
*All names have been changed to protect the family’s privacy