Community spirit shines through
PEOPLE are joining together to help neighbours in need through the coronavirus outbreak.
Thousands of people have signed up to volunteering Facebook groups, where residents can ask for and offer support.
Groups have been set up to cover areas by postcode, with residents encouraged to join up to their local group so they can see who needs help in their area.
From offering to run errands and buy shopping for people who are self-isolating to organising activities children can do at home, the pages have seen an outpouring of goodwill.
Around 40 groups, with more than 5,300 members as the Voice went to press, were being coordinated via the COVID-19 Help, Support And Volunteering South Glos and Bristol page.
One of the organisers of the page is Emersons Green town councillor Matt Palmer, who says the page has been “swamped” by a “phenomenal” level of support since it was set up in mid-March.
Matt said: “We are in unprecedented times and people across the whole community are working together to support each other.
“The admin team from our Facebook page have been overwhelmed by the community response to the challenges of Covid-19, and the number of volunteers who have pledged their time and support to help those in need.
“We are working on a coordinated response to make sure that those who need support receive it and we maximise the effectiveness of our volunteers, whilst at the same time ensuring our most vulnerable and isolated residents are safe.
“We are trying to create a safe, apolitical space filled with love, kindness and hope.
“The community really is stepping up across the whole of South Gloucestershire and Bristol from random acts of kindness, singing, dancing, waving through windows, sending emails to food delivering, shopping and dog walking – people are all playing their part.
“This has been a volunteer run initiative and we have been pushing the boundaries with what we can do without funding and support from the local authority or MPs.”
In the Downend area the COVID-19 Community care BS16 group had more than 1,100 members as the Voice went to print, while more than 200 had joined the COVID-19 Help, Support and Volunteering – Emerson’s Green & Lyde Green group.
Many existing locally-based Facebook groups, such as Mangotsfield Matters and Heathboard, have also become hubs for sharing pleas for help and offers of support.
Since the groups set up, councils have also offered help in coordinating volunteer groups.
South Gloucestershire Council announced it was setting up a directory of groups and was making available a support pack for community aid groups, via parish councils and online at www.southglos.gov.uk/communityaid.
The council is asking community groups to email their details to CommunityAid@southglos.gov.uk so it can offer support.
Council leader Toby Savage said: “This outbreak is absolutely unprecedented and will impact in some way on almost all aspects of almost all of our lives. It is vital that we follow the expert advice, but as restrictive as that may sometimes feel, I am so delighted to see our communities responding with displays of open-hearted generosity to each other. Self-isolation can have a greater impact for those who already feel lonely, which is why it is so heart-warming to see communities rallying round during the outbreak to ensure that no one is forgotten.
“I want to express my thanks to everyone for the way they are facing this challenge already and for the efforts that we know will have to come in the future.
Anyone in need of help who is not online and is stuck at home can call Matt Palmer on 07738 589329.
People in Mangotsfield who are not online and need help can contact Clive Heath of Mangotsfield Residents Association on 07507 168700.