By Lisa Danford
The early months of the pandemic were stressful for Anna Leah Swafford. Like most people, she felt isolated because of the stay-at-home orders. James Harley was used to going to coffee shops or restaurants with friends and felt lonely, too.
So, when the HCDDS Zoom Connection Hour began that summer, they both jumped at the chance to meet new people and start feeling connected again.
These weekly meetings inspired Swafford and Harley to branch out and create other opportunities for people with disabilities.
“It became a passion for me during the pandemic. It helped me realize people are stuck at home all day and they didn’t have anything to do,” Harley said. He started a weekly coffee hour and then teamed up with Swafford to host game nights in 2021.
Game nights were such a hit, they expanded it to multiple days and added hosts they met through other virtual events. Sometimes they play Jeopardy! and trivia. Other nights they do role-playing games.
“When we share our screen and a script, we have people dress up and assign them a character,” Swafford said. “If they don’t have a costume, they can use a background picture of the character.”
While these events happen regularly, connecting to others doesn’t need to be formal. Harley suggests watching a movie or reading a book, then talking about it with a small group of friends.
If you’re shy when it comes to meeting new people, Swafford encourages you to join an established gathering.
“You can get to know people, exchange phone numbers or social media accounts, and see where it goes from there,” she said.
Video chats make it easy to get together, stay safe, and easily connect to people. You can use Zoom, Google Duo, FaceTime or other software/apps.
“During the pandemic, a lot of people were depressed or had anxiety because they were stuck at home a lot. It’s important to stay connected to other people, even if it’s just through video conferencing software,” Harley said.
“We know that this can work and can begin to help solve a lot of the loneliness that exists in the disability community.”
Find clickable links to all the listed events at hamiltondds.org/calendar.