The Ripple Effect – Getting creative with lockdown phone calls

Janet tells us about Activity Phone Calls and Walk and Talk Phone Calls, an innovative approach to ensure the Ripple Effect team can continue supporting people.

The Ripple Effect is a bereavement service providing people with emotional and practical support after the loss of a loved one, delivered in partnership with Sheffield Mind. The project offers up to 3 months of one-on-one support and group activities such as bereavement cafes. It is called the ‘Ripple Effect’ as individuals are given resources, such a skills and confidence, which they can then share with others in the community.

The Ripple Effect team have had to get creative since lockdown, coming up with innovative ways to keep delivering the service – such as Activity Phone Calls and Walk and Talk Phone Calls.

Janet tells us about her simple but brilliant idea:

I just wanted the phone calls to be as creative as we try to be in the community with Ripple Effect. One thing we have learned is that sometimes we need motivation to actually respond to advice and guidance. We sometimes need a helping hand from a friend to motivate us and support us to get out of a rut and to try something new.

That’s why we introduced Activity Phone Calls! What has worked well for me is calling people around lunchtime and over the phone, preparing a sandwich together. Encourage someone to do the same as you there and then – going to the fridge and deciding what is going on your sandwich, arguing about the merits of Marmite, putting the kettle on at the same time. I then might sit down in front of a quiz show on the TV while we eat together and guess the answers on The Chase. This helps you feel like you are sharing an experience and have a friend with you.

Walk and Talk Phone Calls are of a similar principle, only the aim of these calls is to get out of the house. Walk and Talk is a massive win for all of the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Encouraging someone to go out for their walk at the same time as I do is far more likely to result in someone leaving the house than me suggesting –  “You should go for a walk, it will make you feel better”.  So, we put on our shoes together and leave the house.  We are socialising and walking together on opposite sides of the city, but we will talk about what we can see, what we can hear, who we can see.  If we see a neighbour we will encourage one another to wave from a distance and say hello (the other person may not have spoken to a soul in days either and we could have helped them by making their day in a small and significant way).  We will  teach each other something – the name of a flower or bird or something about the local area. We also talk about our favourite place to walk, reminisce on good memories and make plans for the future – like where we will go back to when we are able to.  So, after a 15 minute walk, we will hopefully have:

  • Connected (with our environment, our community and each other)
  • Be Active (we have left the house for a walk in the fresh air)
  • Keep Learning (shared knowledge and experiences)
  • Give (say hello or wave through the window to another isolated person)
  • Take Notice (look at the world around us – it is still there!)

People report feeling so much better for doing these things and it makes the call far more than a chat (not that I am talking down chatting – it is most of what I do!).

It is a very simple approach and won’t work for everyone, but I enjoy the calls more and there is no limit to what you can do – I am baking bread with a lady who has never done it tomorrow! I’m also still looking for someone to help me with the crossword out of the newspaper – I even have a puzzle book here that I can post out.  You can do ANYTHING according to what a person likes to do and makes them feel better, which is the whole point of the personalised and holistic nature of The Ripple Effect.

Janet beautifully sums up the essence of the Ripple Effect project in this poem she wrote:

A giggle from a mouth that’d forgotten how to do it,

A hand held while silent tears flow, to help them through it,

The power of a moment surrounded by friends who understand,

The time spent clearing wardrobes with someone lending a helping hand,

A gentle conversation with strangers who care

Lifting a lonely person out of despair.


A memory shared, a morning out, a walk in the park,

All bring a glow of light into the bottomless dark.

Support to say a last goodbye to a loved one departed,

Moving forward, keeping them close, a new journey started.

A community of disparate people coming together to heal,

Challenging problems with which individuals can’t deal.


So the Ripple Effect is genuinely a sum of many parts,

Doing a little every day to help people heal their hearts.

And when times get hard and keeps people in their homes,

We are still here to support you on our phones.

You may not always see us,

But our voices are still there,

Asking what you need from us,

And telling you that we care.