5th June - National Volunteer's Week
This week has been National Volunteers Week and we thought we’d take some time to recognise the fantastic volunteering effort of this community.
Since the 13 March we have a group of over 1200 people who have come forward to offer support to their neighbours. The 400 streets in BS3 were pounded by many of you over a three week period. You focused on getting your own phone numbers and our leaflets out to people so they knew someone would be there if they needed anything.
We set up a facebook group which now has over 5.5 thousand members. We have a dedicated team of admin and 28 moderators who volunteer in two hour blocks, 7 days a week, to make sure there is someone to pick up people’s questions or signpost them to relevant services.
We set up a helpline and email, which is operational 10am-6pm, 7 days a week. This is looked after by six dedicated volunteers who can help with queries, worries about food, getting you linked with a friendly neighbour, arranging prescription collections, money concerns, general errands and emotional support. If we can’t help directly we can refer you to a relevant service and will keep in touch to make sure you get what you need.
We set up a website which contains as much useful and local information as we can find. Including things like supermarket and pharmacy opening times and local business links. It also has an online form so you can request some assistance that way.
To date we have processed 333 requests for assistance and had a fair few chats with some isolated people. We have a squad of 48 enhanced volunteers who are DBS checked, have safeguarding training and have PPE who are able to help with more complex requests. These volunteers work with people who have more complicated needs or where someone needs an on-going buddy to support them. They are doing a fantastic job with some of the most at risk people in our community.
A lot of people we talk to feel strange about accepting help, they don’t consider themselves in need. And that’s completely understandable, but our message is, we are all in need right now. A worldwide pandemic on this scale is not exactly easy on anyone. The people volunteering their time are getting as much out of it as those who need some help. It is giving people something to do, a way to help and some purpose. Quite a few people we have helped at some point have actually then become volunteers when they were able to. A lot of our volunteers also use our services, for instance they can assist with the facebook group as they are shielding but need someone to help with groceries.
We have seen some fantastic stories shared in the group of some of the great work going on out there. Also about the wonderful sense of community and neighbourliness a lot of you are feeling. It’s beyond heartwarming to have been part of making that happen. There are now at least 25 local WhatsApp groups we are aware of all communicating regularly.I’ve heard of people making friends with neighbours whose names they did not know until this crisis brought us together. It is, I hope, something that won’t be lost when we eventually transition back to our new normal. It is something BS3 Community Development, the fantastic local organisation who lent us their support from the very beginning, is keen to ensure doesn’t happen either. So watch this space for future news on that!
It all began on March 13th with a facebook post by me in a local group, wondering if people would be willing to help their neighbours. And it blew up quickly into this vibrant and kind community. I was overwhelmed with the initial response and one of the first people to contact me and check I was ok was Julia Lock. Her reaching out was so kind, and she quickly became my number 2! BS3 Community Development Manager Ruth Green was next to make contact, offering the services of The Southville Centre and their team. Closely followed by Ellie Freeman from Action Greater Bedminster and Mel Bound from This Mum Runs. Then Jackie Smith, who many of you will know as a familiar face in many local community projects. There have been so many people I couldn’t possibly name in this space but I wanted to name check a few who have been instrumental in achieving what has become the BS3 community hub, well respected and even receiving referrals from the council and other agencies.
Jack Adkins and Lewis for initially being a sounding board and setting up some of our technical solutions. Becky Maund for setting up our website and developing the matching process we still use today to match volunteers. Tom Lane for insanely good mapping skills and generally being an exceptionally kind and dedicated volunteer. Rachel Pollard, Fiona Fletcher and Jemma Edwards for helping with administrative tasks. Our other helpline volunteers for Jo Redman, Rachel Mostyn, Alice Lamb and Caroline Henn for their extremely hard work. Celia Phipps from Community Webbs for all the expert advice. Jacqui Kean, who is the driving force behind the BS3 Community Larder. Finally Lyn Parfitt from BCC for believing in us and supporting us.
As I say there are so many more individual volunteers and our dedicated enhanced volunteers and moderators that I can’t name check personally but who frequently go above and beyond and do an amazing job.
I am proud of what this group has achieved, what it has become and I am proud of each and everyone of you for what has been an absolutely phenomenal response to an unprecedented (sorry, I said it) crisis. It is not over yet and we have a long way to go, but we'll keep on going and look forward to a brighter future where we can maintain some of this good work, in hopefully easier circumstances.
Well done BS3, well done volunteers and for every one of you that stays home where they can, well done also. That is a very important job!
With warm wishes to you all from the bottom of my heart, stay safe,
On behalf of the admin team here at the BS3 Community Covid19 Response Team.