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The Covid-19 support groups making a difference

November 26, 2020 11:59 AM
By Selina Kerr

Throughout the Chilterns, thousands of people have come together as volunteers in community support groups, mobilising their energies, skills and resources to help the most vulnerable people.

Chiltern Liberal Democrats recently spoke to one such local volunteer, Paul Harding about the great work he is doing with Chesham Help for Coronavirus (CHCV) and his views on the support needed going forward.

Paul Harding

Paul, tell us how did you get involved?

Having spent more than 13 years in China, I was watching carefully as SARS-CoV2 emerged in Wuhan and began to spread. In early March, I became concerned that we would be entering a lockdown situation, so contacted some local friends and suggested setting up a group. While we were arranging a meeting (socially distanced) another resident had set up a facebook group, and individuals were already helping vulnerable neighbours as the shelves were emptying and older people were overwhelmed when shopping.

What type of work is the group doing?

We have done more than 1200 tasks for the community, and also did hundreds of deliveries for the food bank, hundreds of deliveries for the pharmacies, and helped people connect to the community fridge. We have also been regularly calling dozens of lonely and isolated residents whose social support structures were closed down (church groups, community groups etc). We've been signposting people to citizen's advice, the Foodbank, hospital transport. We even had a volunteer trimming someone's hedge!

Where do you see the greatest need from the community?

I'm most worried about isolation and loneliness, but the majority of our tasks were to help people isolating or shielding with their shopping.

What sorts of people are looking for your help?

Mostly elderly or vulnerable people, but also anyone who has had to isolate (because of contact or out of caution).

What difference are you making?

We've been a pillar of support for people, a source of information, and have really built up a lasting sense of community. Volunteers got to know residents for whom they were shopping, vulnerable people felt more confident (we had many calls just checking that we are real and can help if necessary).

What does the council need to do to support your efforts further?

We've had good support from councillors at the County and Town level. We were able to raise some funding from the country council that allowed us to print leaflets and deliver to the entire town more than once, give small grants for those unable to pay for shopping,

How do people get involved to volunteer or to seek help?

They can find us on facebook (Chesham Help for Coronavirus) https://www.facebook.com/groups/229337171533779

or call the number 0800 246 1618. We also have a google docs sign up form that can be found on facebook or can be emailed to you if you call the number.