COVID-19 support groups evolve

January 28 2021

ORGANISERS of COVID-19 community groups set up for the first lockdown to help people with essential needs say their role is evolving, as many residents are more confident about how to manage.

One of the groups which was established last March, the Village Volunteers WhatsApp group covering the parish of Olveston, had 60 volunteers lined up within a day to help vulnerable people, as requests came in thick and fast.

Now there are still 40 volunteers – but public calls for help are rare.

Co-founder Martin Gibson, who is the church warden at St Mary’s in Olveston, said: “When the first lockdown came about no one knew what to expect.

"People exercised extreme caution around others, whilst at the same time needing personal contact to get shopping and medical issues resolved.

With successive lockdowns, it seems that everyone is either more blasé or just better organised. No doubt some people are still in need of assistance and receiving it, but it is likely that this is all done on the basis of previous experiences and contacts.”

Organiser of the Old Down Community Support, Di Buckley, which has a ‘members-only’ Facebook page and a WhatsApp group, also feels that people are more experienced.

She said: “In the first lockdown no one knew what they were doing and so they needed help to get every loaf of bread and every prescription.”

This time, just a couple of families have needed help getting their essentials because they’ve been self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus, but the virtual groups are very busy with what Di describes as ‘chit chat’.

She said: “For example the kids are now home-schooling, and some people have posted that some internet providers are offering cheaper Wi-Fi access; someone’s posted that they’re off to the chemist if anyone wants anything, those kinds of normal things.

"It’s lockdown ‘business as usual’.”

People have got to know each other on the group as the months have gone by, coming up with ideas for covid-safe community events to keep the community positive.

Di said: “On Christmas Eve we joined in the international six o'clock bell ring, for people to come out on their doorsteps, and we did a socially-distanced village walk, with torches and lights, just to raise people’s spirits.

"For Old Down, it’s all about building a community.”

The I Can Offer (Covid19 Thornbury Support) Facebook group has had no requests for help for some time.

Administrator Ruth Williams believes this is because people are now very organised.

The group is still active, whoever, and anyone who needs help can contact volunteers via Facebook, by emailing thornburyicanoffer@gmail.comor by calling0784 218 8448.