Masked Heroes WhatsApp Bot

Ideas on how to run WhatsApp/Moyo Support Groups

If you know a group of people working in the community support space, or are a connector (or supporting a connector) who is engaging with community care workers, one easy but important way to #BeThere is to create and nurture a Masked Heroes peer support platform on WhatsApp/Moyo (a free, local chat service).

Getting started: Send a private message to each individual CCW that you would like to invite to the group. Before adding them to any group, ask them first whether they’d like to be added. In that message you should explain what the purpose of the group is and what would be expected of them. If it’s easy, you could even cut and paste the below text into that message to help get things going:

Hi there! I hope that you are coping. I got your number from _______ (insert missing info). I know that things might be really difficult for you and your colleagues during this outbreak. I wanted to let you know that I am starting a virtual support group on WhatsApp/Moyo. There’s no pressure to participate – but of course it’s also a space where you can connect with other people who may be experiencing similar things. You can leave the group any time you like – and I wont ask any questions! Please let me know if you’d be ok with me adding you to the group. From _________ (your name)

Then if they let you know that they want to join – great – add them to the group! If not, don’t make them feel bad about that. Let them know that it’s no problem whatsoever and if they change their mind at a later stage they would be welcome to join.

Create the group. Remember whenever you add new people they are not able to see messages shared before they joined, so it might make sense to have a welcome message that you cut and paste each time someone new joins the group. You could include something along these lines:

Welcome to the ________ (name of area) Masked Heroes support group. This is an informal space where we can lift each other up in these difficult times. To look out for each other, there are some basic guidelines that we all need to follow:

  1. Respect each other’s privacy: What happens in the group, stays in the group!
  2. This group is all about supporting community care workers through the COVID-19 pandemic. Please don’t share anything that’s not related to that.
  3. Please don’t share scary statistics and scary news articles. We get enough of that in our jobs.
  4. Please do share your own experiences, thoughts and feelings.
  5. There’s no pressure to respond and you can leave the group at any time.

It’s not always easy to express to our friends and family what’s happening, and this job can feel very isolating at times. This group isn’t going to solve that but I hope it can give a sense of community, comradery and friendship, and help you remember that you’re not alone.

There are also other resources designed specifically to support YOU at maskedheroes.org.za. Or WhatsApp “hi” to 060 011 9999.

Keep it going: You might be a natural at this, but if not, read on! Remember the point of this group is to help community care workers cope. You can do this by;

  • asking people to share their “roses and thorns” of the days (some good things and some bad things that happened)
  • sharing inspirational stories from places like www.sagoodnews.co.za, www.goodthingsguy.com, #ImStaying.
  • Sharing inspirational quotes and memes from places like Inspirational caregiver quotes and Quotes about being kind
  • Share some of the content developed specifically for community care workers on the Masked Heroes website: Managing your health/ and Psychological Support
  • Encourage them to take two minutes to think quietly, and to name the emotions that they are feeling. They don’t have to go into detail. They can just state, “I’m feeling sad”, or “I am feeling out of control” or whatever that emotion may be. They can write it down or they can share it with the group.
  • Once the group has been going for a while, you could ask people to share what they appreciate about each other.
  • Encourage people to write about their experiences. They can also share their stories, in whatever language they prefer on here. You can also find stories of other CCWs to share with them here: Stories from the frontline

And remember:

  • No one expects you to become a professional psychologist overnight. That’s not what this platform is all about. If very difficult issues are raised that you are not qualified to deal with, please ensure that you refer the CCW to someone who can help them. Click here for more resources to help CCWs cope and to get contact details for Lifeline and the SA Depression and Anxiety Group.
  • It’s also important that you protect your own mental health. Don’t give more than you can manage or cope with. Be kind to yourself as well as to the CCWs.
  • If you find that the conversation is becoming very difficult to manage, you could invite friends to help you manage the load. The point however is to #BeThere for CCWs – not bombard CCWs with a thousand messages. Reaching out once every few days to share a beautiful meme, an inspiring quote, an uplifting story, or to facilitate conversation is enough.
  • If important stories emerge that you think need to be shared (with permission of the person whose story it is) write to us at info@maskedheroes.co.za, or share the story on social media using the #MaskedHeroesSA and #BeThere tags.

Our South African heroes! Our army of the BRAVE! Thank you for your giant hearts and your commitment to community. You inspire us all, and we are so very lucky to have you in our communities and in our homes. When times feel tough, remember that you have the country standing behind you, rooting for your success.