Facing a pandemic for over two years has created unprecedented challenges throughout the world, and significantly changed how people used to connect, live, learn and work. The now sadly familiar travel restrictions have prevented some families to reunite regularly, sometimes for more than two years. To some extent, some people have felt deprived of their regular reconnections with their families and friends, like a rejuvenating visit to their roots. Added to the ongoing uncertainties and the fast-changing environment, this mental discomfort has cumulated over time, resulting in additional mental pressure.
The Dulwich College Beijing Wellbeing Committee has been established to address these emerging problems and help the DCB staff maintain a healthy mind in a healthy body. The committee includes representatives from each of the school and administrative support staff who volunteer to collect and bring forward key concerns and suggestions to the College Leadership Team for further discussion and actions. The reported concerns are mostly related to daily issues and/or family members. Two commonly shared pains are:
- the feeling of not having enough time to handle things and the need to constantly rush from one task to another
- the uncertainty regarding future travels and opportunities to catch up with families
According to Catherine McCaw, member of the wellbeing committee, “the pandemic has ignited an unprecedented level of uncertainty that in turn, has caused a mental burden to everyone. Fixing the pandemic is beyond our control, but we can focus on matters we can control and find ways to alleviate the symptoms and carve out some extra mental space. Our mission is, therefore, to help our colleagues and families to enhance their wellbeing and mental health, for example by crafting opportunities for everyone to make new friends and try new activities.” We have collaborated with Dr Tabitha Healy to guide us and implement a wellbeing framework for our community: SPACE
We hope to bring our staff community together as everyone is separated from their family and we all face the same uncertainty and restrictions. With this in mind, DCB has designed and implemented a series of programmes based on the SPACE framework to engage staff across the whole college and maintain their wellbeing and mental health.
Weekly counselling sessions
Starting from November 2021, the College invited professional psychologists to provide one-on-one counselling sessions twice a week on campus. The programme will continue to run until the end of the academic year and the expenses are fully covered by the College. Every Friday, staff members in need of counselling service can log in an internal system to book a session for the upcoming week. The psychologists are fluent in English and Chinese so both expatriate staff and PRC staff have access to the support if they need it.
Staff ECAs and holiday activities
The DCB staff wellbeing committee has organised a variety of staff activities after school hours, including yoga, painting, tennis, badminton and talks on topics like sleep and mindfulness… to name but a few. In many cases, all the committee has done is to draw attention to pre-existing staff wellbeing initiatives. The campus’ gym facilities, swimming pool, and sports fields are all open to staff members for use after school when not needed for the student programmes. Chinese classes are also offered at different levels to support the non-Chinese-speaking staff in their daily life.
As the school staff face many stringent travel restrictions, many staff members cannot reunite with their families, whether they live outside of Beijing or overseas. Therefore, the DCB staff wellbeing committee proactively organised a series of spirit-lifting activities during the festive holiday seasons like Christmas and Chinese New Year.
DCB also has a staff social committee responsible for organizing staff parties during the key holiday seasons. Every year, the social committee organises a Christmas staff party, a Chinese New Year staff party, and a summer holiday staff party.
Moving forward, we aim to improve the existing process and encourage everyone to incorporate some wellbeing activities as part of their weekly routine. As educators, this is also a way to inspire our students to care equally about their mental and physical health.