I swear I’ve never watched Neighbours, but you can’t help knowing the lyrics. Never have their saccharine and sentimental words been more apt. I’ve taken to meeting the neighbours for coffee every day. I’ve discovered one side has loo rolls and the other has pasta, so we’re good for a bit.
Whatsapp groups have sprung up street by street so neighbours can talk to each other and keep an eye on each other. If your street doesn’t have one, set one up.
Images above: Fr Kevin Morris, vicar of St Michael & All Angels Church; Fr Simon Brandes, vicar of St Nicholas Church
Churches organising volunteers
“The upsurge in community spirit has been fantastic” says Fr Kevin Morris of St Michael & All Angels Church.
I asked him what they were doing to support people who were isolated. “We’ve rather had the wind taken out of our sails” he told me. They’ve been busy organising the live-streaming of services, since the C of E announced last Friday that there would be no more public services. (The first time churches had been closed since the Black Death, he told me cheerily). “We’re on a very steep learning curve” he said. “By the time we’d sorted that out and started to look at who needed help, all these little self-help groups had already formed”.
That is not to say the churches won’t be providing support, they are. The five churches I spoke to all had groups of volunteers ready to help, taking calls and emails through their parish offices. At the moment they are using the people they know, conscious of the issue of safeguarding, but they are keen to get new volunteers DBS checked as swiftly as possible (anyone know how that can be achieved quickly?? Answers to email@example.com – and potential volunteers, who we will pass on).
Fr Kevin told me he was touched to find that one person had delivered a piece of cake and flowers to a number of people who they knew lived on their own.
Fr Simon Brandes at St Nicholas Church in Chiswick Mall found himself with an embarrassment of daffodils on Sunday, ordered for the Mother’s Day service which was cancelled. They distributed them to nearby houses and left the rest on the church steps with a note saying ‘give a bunch to someone you love’.
“The Church has always been involved in community” he told me. “If the Church can support the community in any way, that’s its role and its function”. The Crosslight debt advice centre based at St Nicholas is no longer meeting people face to face, but continue to offer advice and help over the phone. Tel: 0207 052 0318. Director – Michele Rooney.
Images above: Martine Oborne, vicar of St Michael’s, Elmwood Rd; Nicola Moy, vicar of Christ Church, Turnham Green
Nichola Moy, vicar of Christ Church told me she and her volunteers are busy contacting the 500 or so people they have on their database, offering help to elderly and disabled parishioners. They have the freezer stocked with ready meals, and are poised to deliver them.
Sue Hearn told me St Paul’s Grove Park also has a group of helpers on call to do shopping for those who need it.
Martine Oborne, vicar of St Michael’s Elmwood Rd, said:
“We are doing regular phone calls to anyone who would like that and urgent food deliveries where we can”.
See details of their live-streamed services here.
People coming forward through social media
There have been lots of offers in social media from people wanting to help out. As people are wary of con artists preying on the vulnerable, it’s best to get in touch with one of the organisations which regularly operates with volunteers. Have a look at our Volunteer Chiswick directory for inspiration (though of course the charity shops listed are now closed).
A Facebook group has been set up to help those who may be quarantined due to the COVID-19 outbreak and to support vulnerable Chiswick residents.
The local councils are in the process of setting up Community Support Hubs to provide help to the most vulnerable.
Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar
See also: Churches live-streaming services