People’s lives have changed beyond all recognition since the COVID-19 virus gathered pace. During these challenging times – with Prime Minister Boris Johnson now putting the UK on lockdown due to the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak – communities have been doing their best to support each other.
Everyone’s lifestyles have been curbed further following the PM’s lockdown announcement on 23rd March. While panic and fear have overwhelmed many people, others are going above and beyond the call of duty to improve the quality of life for the local community.
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Local businesses and residents have been doing their best to help the many people who are having to self-isolate due to the virus. A complete range of services has been organised by locals in the Scottish community of Orkney by the Orkney CV Mutual Aid Group, set up on 14th March by Sarah MacGregor, of Stromness.
In the short period since its formation, around 2,000 people have signed up to the voluntary group to offer help to any residents who are struggling. This has enabled organisers to set up teams of volunteers in every area to help vulnerable members of the local community.
As well as identifying people in need, the volunteers are liaising with other local groups to set up a complete support system for people who are isolated and need help. It is new territory to most of the people offering their services and they have described it as a “work in progress”, as everyone learns together.
As part of the action plan, local businesses and individuals are providing food hampers of everyday essential items and distributing them among vulnerable members of society – including to residents of Orkney’s care homes.
Orkney Rugby Football Club said they had been “well supported” by the local community, so were taking steps to give something back. Members, players and committee members have offered to help people in need or those who are self-isolating. The services on offer include everything from collecting a prescription, to walking the dog.
Orkney businesses have played a big part in the local response to the Coronavirus crisis, with many offering home delivery services. Meanwhile, two local distilleries – The Orkney Distillery and Deerness Distillery – are developing hand sanitiser, rather than spirits, to cope with the increased demand.
Help for charities
Elsewhere in the UK, Kent Community Foundation announced the launch of the KCF Coronavirus Emergency Fund, on 23rd March, to support community groups and charities facing difficulties, or even closure, as a result of the virus. They can apply for a grant of up to £10,000 to help them if they are currently unable to fundraise. Priority will be given to charities and groups that support elderly and vulnerable people initially.
Local businesses are supporting the Northumberland and Tyne and Wear Community Foundation Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund. It has been set up to provide help as quickly as possible to local community groups and charities that are helping vulnerable people during the outbreak.
There is already £200,000 in the fund and now, more businesses and individuals are being urged to support the efforts. Grants should be available by the end of March to support as many local communities as possible.
Help for elderly people
In the Lake District, the Cumbria Community Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund has been launched to help vulnerable people to get through these difficult times, coordinating the numerous informal support networks that have sprung up around the county, where there are significant numbers of older people, who have an increased risk of loneliness and isolation.
Cumbria Community Foundation has already donated £100,000 and although local businesses are struggling themselves, they are doing their best to donate more to the fund.
According to a report by the BBC, the pattern is the same all over the UK, with more than 1,000 support groups set up by local businesses, community groups and volunteers. A new organisation, Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK, is aiming to coordinate all the groups to ensure aid goes where it’s most needed.
Kelsey Mohamed, 28, who co-founded the organisation, said there had been an “overwhelming” response, showing what was possible when people prioritised “simple compassion”. The goodwill from local businesses, shops and individuals has provided hope and positivity in an otherwise gloomy climate.
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