After more than a week of the coronavirus lockdown, we’ve probably all got more time on our (very well-washed) hands than we know what to do with. Here, Croydon teacher and volunteer ROWENNA DAVIS (pictured left) offers some suggestions about how to cope in the crisis
Many of you will already be helping deal with the coronavirus emergency in some way, whether it’s caring for an elderly relative, occupying your children with activities that stop them trashing the house, or by waving to your neighbours.
But, if you’re lucky enough to have a little more space, here are 10 ways you can help your community:
1, Follow. The. Guidance. There’s no point playing the hero if you’re simultaneously infecting people and so overloading the NHS. The reason we’ve pressed pause on our entire economy is because isolation saves lives. So before you do anything beyond washing your hands at home alone, read about how to help safely at Mutual Aid UK, or Queer by clicking here.
2, Check on neighbours and old friends. You’re not being patronising. This crisis is unprecedented. So, go through your address book, your old Facebook contacts – is there anyone worth checking on? Someone isolated or disabled or cut off? Starting with people you know is the safest way to help because there’s a relationship of trust already there.
3, Join your local Mutual Aid group. Croydon Covid-19 Mutual Aid has more than 3,000 members. Alongside the main group, there’s a network of more than 60 WhatsApp groups covering particular areas, linking neighbours with local requests for help. Daily, I’ve seen everything from people picking up prescriptions and sharing online education programmes for kids, to people offering to redistribute guiltily hoarded toilet rolls. To find your WhatsApp groups or simply start a new one, click here.
4, Donate to foodbanks. If you can’t spare food or leave the house, financial donations are really welcome. Foodbanks often have networks that mean they get good deals and financial donations give them the flexibility to buy what they need. Some supermarkets like Ocado even allow you to do this with an online shop. Odd as it may sound, but in these unusual times try to avoid using cash: handling coins and notes may be a way the virus is transmitted.
The list of the borough’s foodbanks is here:
5, Volunteer formally through the NHS volunteer programme or the police (coming soon). Croydon Voluntary Action is also recruiting volunteers and directing people to local charities. I know Croydon Nightwatch, in particular, is looking to recruit volunteers to help the homeless as many of their older, dependable volunteers are self-isolating.
6, Adapt your skill and do something with it online. I’ve seen personal fitness trainers shifting to online workouts, counselling services by video link, Carol Vorderman has made all her maths sessions for kids free online, Joe Wicks is running online PE classes, there are even tango classes… One couple I know has turned their home into a micro-bakery with amazing responses. If you are in a position to offer a skill for free, why not? You might just boost your profile at the same time.
7, Get a job at a supermarket. Supermarkets say the biggest problem they have encountered in the coronavirus emergency is not running out of food, but running out of staff. Whatever job you’ve done in the past, why not try working for a major food supplier? It’s more than important work, it’s a national mission.
8, Get political. You might not be able to take to the streets, but there are plenty of causes that can be fought for online. Whether it’s making sure self-employed workers and those on zero-hour contracts get the same support as others through the crisis, or pushing for those without recourse to public funds to be given help to keep us all safer and healthier, there is loads you can do.
9, Help build new social norms. If you’re out picking up the shopping, leave more than a two-metre gap between you and others. Smile as you do it and nod – avoidance can feel accusatory, so do it in a spirit of friendliness. Give way. Cross the street to avoid people. Take your time. If you think someone is doing something irresponsible, don’t launch into a lecture – just ask them if they’re sure that’s safe.
10, Spread the right information, and challenge the rest. It’s tempting to share that one photo of an empty supermarket aisle when the rest of the shop is actually well-stocked, but try not to put your panic online. When you’re offering advice, make sure it’s linked to an accredited source. If you see something false, challenge it. We’re facing a pandemic of misinformation as well as corona. Take a breath, and click share on the thing that’s useful rather than the thing that’s dramatic.
All of the ideas above I’ve discovered by watching people actually do them.
Croydon is amazing. At a time when everyone has to keep their distance, thousands of us are coming together. At a time when millions of us are self-isolating, we’ve never felt so close. So, see if there’s one or two things you can add from this to your doubtlessly already long list.
That way, we’ll get through this together.
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