MARKFIELD GOOD NEIGHBOURS SCHEME
It’s hard to believe that is now over a month since the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced the Corona Virus Lock Down in the UK on the 23rd March. So much has happened since.
Fortunately and perhaps with a bit of foresight we were ahead of the game. A full week before the lock down we had already considered how we could utilise the fledgling Markfield Good Neighbour’s Scheme to help and support our local community in the event of a lock down and the worsening of the Corona Virus Pandemic.
Within a matter of days of the lock down and having put out an appeal for volunteers on emails and social media the offers of help and support came flooding in. This enabled us to allocate a volunteer to every street in both Markfield and Fieldhead. The volunteers then delivered leaflets to every household offering help and support especially to the elderly, vulnerable and those who are self isolating. The leaflet gave residents a street contact telephone number and a description of what help and support the Markfield Good Neighbours Scheme could provide. We now have over 70 volunteers on the scheme which is truly amazing.
At first we soon found that trying to coordinating the scheme by email was too confusing, cumbersome and slow. The dedicated scheme telephone number was also overwhelmed we had to find a better way of communicating.
The answer was to provide a dedicated scheme Whatsapp platform. We also soon found that one platform was insufficient and had to open up two Scheme Whatsapp platforms i.e. One for general chat amongst volunteers where they could exchange ideas and “ what’s going on” updates and any other concerns or ideas and the other platform for requests for help, sharing information and situational updates.
Apart from volunteers we have put key people on the scheme to ensure that they are in the loop as to what is going on and to give advice and support. These include our County Council, Borough and Parish Councillors as well as our local Police PCSO.
This has proven to be successful and provides a more controlled and rapid communications response system even though the phone is “pinging” away from dawn to dusk!
This system has also enabled us to give volunteers guidance or advice on a whole host of issues that, in “normal times” would not normally be a problem. Problems and issues encountered include such things as Safe Guarding, Social Distancing, Data Protection, DBS requirements, cash withdrawals for clients, food supplies, bereavement, personal protection equipment, help with documentation and even the closure of the local Post Office. The list goes on and on as the crisis evolves and there is rarely a day when there isn’t a problem or issue to resolve.
One bonus from the scheme’s Whatsapp system has been its ability to allow us to rapidly inform volunteers and their street contacts of any emergency situations. It also enables the Police and ourselves to quickly inform each other of local crime, anti social behavior and breaches of self isolation rules. A recent incident demonstrates the effectiveness of our communications system. Information on a suspicious person cold calling at houses in the village asking for cash donations for “Corona Virus” was immediately sent out as an alert to or volunteers who in turn advised people in their streets. The Police attended and fortunately no one became a victim of crime on this occasion.
The help, support and imagination of our volunteers and other members of our community here in Markfield and Fieldhead has been truly amazing and heart warming. Below are just some examples of what has been done to help the community over the last six weeks.
HELP IN THE COMMUNITY
Volunteers have donated and delivered food to people and families in need. They include those who have been referred to us by the Borough Council’s Emergency Hub as well as those who have had Shielding letters.
Apart from numerous shopping trips to provide essential food to the elderly, vulnerable and self isolating, we now have a dedicated team of volunteers who have delivered dozens and dozens of prescriptions from our local pharmacy. Other requests include taking of samples or medical forms to our Medical Centre.
Volunteers also found that people are reluctant to ask for help. They designed an “It’s Ok to ask” poster that has been displayed in windows and key points in the village to encourage people to ask for help if they need it. Retained Community Centre staff have been calling some of our most elderly and vulnerable customers on a regular basis to ensure that they are coping and if they have any needs.
A major concern was the closure of the Markfield Post Office. This is a vital service for our community. Without it many people could no longer collect pensions, benefits, withdraw cash or use other Post Office Services. So, without hesitation and with risk to themselves our volunteers have come forward to support the re-opening of the Post Office. Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 9am to 1pm volunteers are helping to control limited entrance to the Post Office and support social distancing rules.
SUPPORTING THE NHS AND HEALTH CARE WORKERS
Volunteers and local people have been magnificent in trying to help NHS and our Health Care Workers.
Volunteers have been busy making “scrubs” and face mask head bands to help with the current shortage of Personal Protection Equipment. People have been donating volumes and volumes of material and buttons and even a sewing machine was donated to a lady who wanted to help make such items.
Staff working in NHS and Health Care Services are suffering from skin damage to their hands from continual washing and disinfecting. After an appeal for unused hand cream and lotions a torrent of supplies came in and are still coming in. One volunteer has joined a Cosmetic Company so that villagers can buy reasonably priced hand creams for donation and even her commission is being used to purchase more supplies.
On Friday 10th April we opened up the Community Centre for the National Blood Transfusion Service for them to obtain vital emergency supplies of blood. There will be other sessions in July and August to support the NHS
One volunteer has been raising funds by auctioning paintings and obtaining sponsorship. To date he has raised £2,000.
LIFTING COMMUNITY SPIRIT
After weeks of lock down and social isolation and possibly more weeks to come, this is where the enthusiasm and ingenuity of our volunteers and villagers has sprung up to lift spirits and help us all “Keep Smiling Through”.
The list is endless and apart from rainbows in windows and the children’s Teddy Bear Hunt so much has been and is being done to lift our spirits including:
Dancing in the streets and even street BINGO
Social Media Work out Sessions and chat
The wonderful Queen Bees Sunflower Project
Weekly “clapping” for the NHS and key workers. What a racket throughout the village it is fantastic.
Happy Birthday choruses for the Queen and of course the inspirational Captain Tom.
Bunting being made ready for a V.E.Day 75th Anniversary commemoration
There is so much going on in the village and so much support and voluntary help being offered that EVERY ONE of you deserves a medal. This couldn’t have done without YOU. Thank you all so very much on behalf of all the village and YES we must have a village party when these difficult times have passed.
Ron and Dawn Grantham
3rd May 2020
Please remember that if you would like to join our band of volunteers or need some help please contact us at email@example.com or ring us on 07885 243033