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Here to Help: Not Alone – Our mission to combat loneliness in communities amid coronavirus

Reporter Donna-Louise Bishop launching the Not Alone (pen pal initiative) string of the Here to Help campaign. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Reporter Donna-Louise Bishop launching the Not Alone (pen pal initiative) string of the Here to Help campaign. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

For many, the term “pen pal” may invoke nostalgic feelings of bygone days when people would look forward to receiving handwritten letters.

Keeping in touch as Donna-Louise Bishop launches the Not Alone (pen pal initiative) string of the Here to Help campaign. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYKeeping in touch as Donna-Louise Bishop launches the Not Alone (pen pal initiative) string of the Here to Help campaign. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

But now it could be the key to unlocking the world again for many groups and individuals currently in self-isolation.

This week the EDP and Norwich Evening News unveiled its latest campaign , Here to Help, in a bid to create an army of helpers to step in to offer extra support.

Now, together with Norfolk County Council (NCC), we are adding a new string to the campaign’s bow in the form of Here to Help: Not Alone.

The initiative aims to tackle concerns and alleviate issues surrounding loneliness as more and more people find themselves at home.

Overseen by senior reporter Donna-Louise Bishop, the idea is to make sure that as many people as possible do not feel alone during this time.

She said: “Here to Help: Not Alone is all about steering the focus towards positive mental health and wellbeing and counteracting the effects of social isolation.

“With this in mind, the EDP and Norwich Evening News have set up a pen friend scheme to bring people together during this unprecedented series of events.

“We want to connect groups and individuals who want to both receive letters, as well as write them – whether that be via our postal service or email.

Our Here to Help postcard.Our Here to Help postcard.

“So if you want to get involved, we’d love to hear from you. Having loads of support for a project like this and to bring the community together through writing would be absolutely heartwarming.”

READ MORE: The people, groups and communities in Norfolk helping others in their hour of need.

David Powles, editor of the EDP and Evening News, added: “While we are getting through the day to day problems, it’s important we look out for the most vulnerable in our communities.

“This is a way of doing that and making sure we keep people connected.”

Becoming a Here to Help pen friend could appeal to residents in care homes, people who want to build new friendships, parents or careers who want a project to do at home with children, or anyone who simply wants to send and receive letters, postcards, cards, a poem or a drawing either regularly or as a one-off – the list is endless.

Councillor Bill Borrett, NCC’s cabinet member for adult social care and public health, said: “Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. By putting people in contact with each other we can not only fight loneliness, but create new friendships that will last long after we’ve beaten Covid-19.

“Anyone who finds themselves feeling alone as they follow the government’s advice should get in touch and find new people and connections to be reminded that we’re facing this challenge together as a community.”

• To get in touch email Donna-Louise.Bishop@archant.co.uk with the subject header “Here to Help: Not Alone”, your contact details, the type of involvement you would like to have, and the preference of person or group you would like to write to and/or hear from. We will then put you in touch with each other.

Tips for looking after your mental health when working from home

(by Jill Mead, co-founder of workplace mental health organisation, TalkOut)

· Try and keep a positive mindset.

Take time each day to reflect on what is important to you in life; keeping a gratitude journal; or noting down one thing every day that you’re proud of or that you’ve accomplished.

· Maintain connection.

Rather than emailing colleagues, opt for video conferencing platforms such as Skype, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, use FaceTime, or at the very least, make a phone call.

· Create your unique routine.

Try getting out of bed at a set time in the morning, have a shower and get ready, eat breakfast, and do whatever else you would normally do as part of your working day routine.

· Take short, regular breaks.

Lunch time and short, regular breaks every 90 minutes can help boost wellbeing.

· Check-in and talk out.

Recognise your feelings and talk out to someone if you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed.

· Avoid too much news.

Avoid constant news updates and stick to reputable news sources to avoid the scaremongering headlines or fake warnings.

Here to Help Campaign

With Norfolk County Council, we have launched our Here to Help campaign in a bid to create an army of helpers to step in to offer that extra support.

Clearly, there are safety issues of which to be aware but there are all ways in which we can help - whether that’s dropping off food, walking a pet, phoning someone on their own or just pointing them in the direction of the most up to date advice.

We’ve included a Here to Help postcard, which we would love to see people post through their neighbours’ letterboxes.

For more information or to download cards click here .

For updates, visit our Facebook page Norfolk Coronavirus Updates .

Join our Here to Help Facebook page here .

• If you are doing something to help in your community email donna-louise.bishop@archant.co.uk.


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