A KEY worker who has had to move away from her family has spoken about life in the coronavirus pandemic.

Karina Peel, 43, a support worker in Brighton, shared the story of her sacrifices to keep people safe.

She has now spent eight weeks away from her two children, both in their twenties, and her seven-year-old granddaughter Nevaeh to care for other young people at the Gareth Stacey House in Dyke Road, which is supported housing for people aged 16 to 25.

She said: “For me, life has changed dramatically. I have moved from my home into an Airbnb so that I can continue to work without putting my family or others at risk.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has hit everyone hard, changing life as we know it and turning the simple things into what sometimes seem like impossible tasks.

“Social distancing has, for me, been the biggest struggle.

“I have cried some tears.

“Eight weeks is the longest time I’ve been away from my children and my granddaughter, who literally are my world. But, I know there will be an end, there will be a reunion and I’m holding on to that.

“I’m a real people person and I’ve realised that hugs are highly underrated.”

She has shared her daily routine as a frontline worker working at the site which is run by the YMCA Downslink Group.

The group is one of the biggest providers of youth services in the South East and aims to transform the lives of vulnerable young people.

The charity’s work covers a wide range of areas including accommodation, mental health, housing advice, counselling, sexual exploitation, mentoring, education, training and apprenticeships.

Ms Peel said: “A typical day starts with 20 press-ups, a shower, then a ten to 15-minute walk to work with my headphones in, singing – badly – as I look out for a little something to make me smile.

“Quite often that comes by way of a member of the public’s disgruntled look when they hear me singing.

“At 8am, we do the first house check of the day and then I check the diary before tackling my emails.

“Today, I had three key work sessions – one over the phone, one via our intercom, and one via email.

“I inducted a new resident and moved them in.

“The team made contact with each of our residents via various means to check in and make sure they are all OK.

“There were calls with family members of residents, some with concerns and some just to say thank you.

“We discussed as a team how to move forward with our Covid-19 adapted ‘more than a room’ sessions and had a good chat with our manager over the phone.

“Having to work directly – at a safe social distancing space – with 15 young people, all with different needs, has meant we’ve had to create some quick-thinking methods to keep the important work we all do moving on in a safe way.

“I am proud of the way each of our residents are handling the situation, some have struggled with social distancing, we have had some tears but generally, there is a strange sense of calm.”

Karina has worked for the service for eight months.

She heaped praise on her colleagues and the wider community for their work and support during the crisis. She said: “I feel privileged to work alongside such a great team and have fantastic colleagues. We work as one to support each other as well as our residents.

“Our local community has been fantastic and shown generosity beyond anything we could have imagined with gifts of food to keep our residents healthy and some extremely yummy treats too.”

Daisy Fellowes and Hayley Rootes are also resident support workers at the YMCA.

They work at its transitional housing in Hastings and Rother which includes a mixture of properties from two-bed flats to nine-bed houses accommodating young people aged 18 to 35 who require low-level support.

They also shared their experience of working through the pandemic.

Daisy said: “Lockdown? Don’t panic we’ve got this.

“Hayley prints a list of residents for us to call to check they are OK.

“One team member is sent home due to isolation.

“It’s getting a bit more real now. While the emails load it’s time to turn on the phone and listen to voicemails.

“There’s an urgent safeguarding issue, a broken washing machine and a fire alarm panel needing to be reset. Emails have loaded and there is now also a leak.

“It’s the usual Monday in transitional housing except now we must literally roll up our sleeves and put on our gloves.

“Gloves – check, mask – check, hand sanitiser – check, cleaning rota – check.

“Next we’re off to the supermarket with a shopping list, two trolleys and a rough idea of shopping limits.

“We make a couple of cut-throat decisions at the till over the number of wraps and bread we can buy, now to fit this in the car and deliver to our residents.

“Back at the office the phone rings – a resident is feeling anxious over social distancing rules so we give support and reassurance and all is OK again until we’re informed about a young person who needs urgent accommodation. We have weekend and evening shifts to cover in Eastbourne, assessments to arrange, rents to be paid and hampers to deliver.

“We’re no longer working in pairs, everyone is strictly sticking to social distancing guidelines so we have daily team meetings by video chats on Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp group calls.

“There may be an “i” in Hastings but there’s no “i” in team and Hastings team has been brilliant.”