Today I'm stepping back to look at all of the things that are going on within the village to make this lockdown bearable. We really are a lucky village to have so many residents that are willing to get stuck in. I'm not talking about the NHS staff and essential personnel such as firemen, it goes without saying that we are all so proud of our key workers and the clapping on Thursday nights demonstrates that. I'm talking about the local volunteers who have stepped up to support their neighbours in a variety of roles.
Village Support Volunteers
One of the first things to set up was a network of support volunteers. Initially proposed on Facebook, over 50 individuals were organised by street to leaflet the elderly and vulnerable offering their contact number for help and support. Three weeks on, this initial proactive network continues to provide help and assistance to many people who would otherwise struggle in the village.
Shortly after the proactive volunteer network was working, MVP recognised that the need for help might stretch beyond those who were obviously vulnerable as anyone experiencing or exposed symptoms needs to isolate completely. This would generate a request for help, rather than an offer of help. The MVP adapted the Request Tracking system that they use for their website to manage requests. This was coupled with a central email address and a single phone number for anyone in the village to use.
Manned 7 days a week from 9am to 9pm, this service used many of the volunteers who were already supporting their neighbours to deliver support to anyone in the village who needed it.
As these two systems evolved rapidly, they have had to be mindful of GDPR, the risks of infection and the risks of fraud on the vulnerable. Over the weeks, procedures and practices have been put in place to address these whilst still offering services such as:
- Prescription collection
- Shopping for people
- Coordinated bulk food delivery
- Someone to chat to
The larger authorities have also started to catch up, with West Berkshire Council offering a centralised Hub for tracking the vulnerable and passing requests on the village team where necessary and vice versa.
Finally, this week the network of 750K NHS volunteers went live with local people signed up to use an app to distribute care tasks across the country. How this will integrate with (or replace) what is already there locally is not clear, but everyone will work together to ensure that no-one is suffering too much.
Local businesses have stepped up to do what they can to make life easier:
- Budgens has a one member of the family rule and a sanitising station by the door. The counter has also been modified to give the staff some distance. The staff remain helpful and cheerful. It really is a crucial resource for the community.
- Dads shop is operating on a one person at a time rule which means an orderly queue of people standing 2m apart is now a common sight outside.
- The Loon Tin is operating a normally as it can do. It worked with the volunteer network to give a free fish and chip supper to the old folk who attend the Lunch Club.
- The Victoria Arms is offering to deliver 'take away' food and arranging a similar free supper to the Lunch Club
- The Cinnamon Tree has closed as a restaurant, but will delivery a tasty Indian Meal if you fancy one.
If you take your hour of exercise around the village you will see numerous window displays. These fall into two broad camps:
- NHS Rainbows. Printed or drawn by enthusiastic inhabitants the NHS rainbow is a national phenomenon that Mortimer has taken to its heart.
- Teddy bears and more. To make a walk outside more fun for children people have been popping teddy bears and other characters in the windows of the houses for kids to find. The parks are closed so this small gesture is making some walks more fun
Dressing Up For Exercise
Jogging and cycling during lockdown seem to be the two most common forms of one-hour exercise people are taking. However, some are combining those with providing entertainment for anyone who sees them. How could you miss a pink Unicorn jogging down your road!
Finally, there is the Thursday clapping for the NHS and key workers. It was the third week on Thursday and it was the longest and loudest we've seen. Pots, pans and even fireworks were in evidence in the village. As someone who invested in ~500 rounds of .38 cal blanks for an athletics season that has been cancelled, I think I might add to the cacophony next week!