‘It’s the human spirit’: Thousands band together to support vulnerable through coronavirus
PUBLISHED: 10:43 20 March 2020 | UPDATED: 14:05 20 March 2020
Thousands of volunteers have got together in a matter of days to create unique support groups that will help their communities through the coronavirus outbreak.
In Halesworth, Beccles and Bungay, dozens of community support groups have been launched in the past week, with neighbours, volunteers, councillors and anyone with something to offer grouping together to look after their communities.
There are now several Facebook groups which provide people with up to date information, and dozens of community support groups organised through parish councils that hope to ensure nobody goes without shopping, food, or even just company over the coming weeks and months.
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It comes after our sister newspaper the Eastern Daily Press joined forces with Norfolk County Council to launch our Here to Help scheme calling for an army of helpers to step in and offer extra support.
The Beccles during Covid-19 Facebook group was founded on Saturday, March 14, and already has well over 1,000 members who are there to “make sure we support the most vulnerable during the coronavirus outbreak”.
The group is about supporting others and giving “proactive practical solutions” to many of the challenges that self-isolation will bring to our communities.
Green councillor Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw, who founded the group with councillor Caroline Topping, said: “I realised instantly people want to help and it was important to do that in a safe an constructive way and bring people together rather than people doing separate things.
“We have over 1,000 people and are organising more than 300 volunteers for different roads in Beccles.”
Working with the local council, churches, the fire service, Waveney centre, and foodbanks, the group will begin leafleting in Beccles today, March 20, with more information for residents about what they can offer.
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“We need to help people, with shopping, food, a friendly phone call, knitting, or something fun to do,” Brambley-Crawshaw added.
“Nothing like this has happened in anyone’s lifetime and the fact the community are working together is such a positive - we should focus on the positives over the next few weeks.”
Following the success of the Beccles volunteer group, Bungay resident Kate Jackson founded the Bungay during Covid-19 Facebook group, which has just shy of 500 members after its creation five days ago.
“I’ve coordinated groups in the past so I’m used to managing things like this,” she said.
“There is some frustration that the government isn’t doing enough. So as a community we can make decisions and take our own action.”
The group aims to let others meet who want to help and talk to each other without any risk of spreading the virus, and is working with organisations like the local foodbank to ensure their shelves are topped up.
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“Coronavirus reminds us all how connected we are. We need local groups to link up, free of all the panic, to support each other.”
In Halesworth, existing community organisations like the Halesworth Volunteer Centre and the parish council are pooling their resources, with more than 150 people now assisting the elderly and vulnerable through this crisis.
With an ‘isolation bus’ that can provide transport and company, and a car reserved for getting people to emergency appointments, Emma Healey said the town is “making sure everyone who needs help knows where to go.”
Mrs Healey, who manages the Halesworth Volunteer Centre, added: “We are creating an information postcard delivered to every household in Halesworth and the surrounding villages.
“It lets people know they aren’t alone, and there is help, and how they can help if they want to.”
The town is from Friday, March 20, launching a 24/7 contact number for anyone who needs help to reach a volunteer. You can call on 01986 875600 or email email@example.com.
A similar phone service is being set up at the Blyth Valley team ministry, where anyone can call for a chat or to pray and receive spiritual guidance while isolating.
“Call us, ring in, we need volunteers and we need people to know there is help,” Mrs Healey said.
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