These are unprecedented times. Due to a global pandemic, half of Europe is in lockdown and the UK government has advised that we should work from home, avoid unnecessary travel, and stop going to pubs and restaurants.
The term they have been using is ‘social distancing’ meaning taking steps to limit contact with others. People should cancel large social gatherings, avoid busy public places, and try to only leave home to get essentials such as food or medicine.
They are soon to shut down schools in Scotland and Wales and it is likely that groups particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, such as those over the age of 70, will shortly be asked to stay at home for 12 weeks.
This news will be a terrifying prospect for the millions of older people across the UK who already struggle with isolation and loneliness, as well as people who work in the hospitality industry, or any other high contact job.
It is true that we have been thrown into a period of extreme uncertainty with no definite endpoint. It will be a hard time for all, but it also presents us with an opportunity. An opportunity to let human compassion shine through and to come together to help each other through this.
Although we must distance ourselves physically to protect those at-risk, we need connection and community more than ever.
If you are feeling a bit lost as to how you can help in your community and lend a hand to those who need it most, we have created a list of ways you can help out responsibly.
We know it seems counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways you can show your support is by respecting government advice and limiting your contact with other people.
You may recover from the virus quickly and with no complications, but there will be many people in your life for whom Covid-19 presents a far bigger risk.
Commit to social distancing, not for your sake but for your elderly grandparents, and your immunocompromised friends; those who are recovering from chemotherapy, living with diabetes, or managing a myriad other conditions which can affect your immune system.
Studies have shown that loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking. It is something that millions of us around the world struggle with on a daily basis. And now, the need to self-isolate will exacerbate this problem for so many people.
It’s time to make the most of all the technology and tools that we have at our disposal. Make sure that at least once a day you are reaching out to a friend, a family member, a neighbour in need, and actually speaking to them – not texting.
Whether its Facetime, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or a good old-fashioned telephone call – reach out to the people in your life!
We have written a lot about how volunteering is good for both your physical and mental health. And now is a better time than ever to get involved with giving back, as so many of us are in need of a little extra support.
In an inspirational, nationwide show of solidarity – Coronavirus help groups have been popping up on Facebook across the UK. As of Monday 16th March, there were reported to be 300 mutual aid groups set up across the country.
Volunteers are mobilising to offer help with food shopping, delivering medication, and just providing company to stave off boredom.
These Facebook groups are a wonderful way of supporting your local community – search for Covid-19 Mutual Aid and your area if you want to get involved. Edward Davies, Cabinet Minister for Health and Adult Social Care, advises that we should ‘offer help to people [we] already know, make donations to food banks, or appeal to established services like Age UK.’
Virtual volunteering or telephone befriending are great ways to provide support to those who are at-risk and self-isolating. Call in Time by Age UK and Dial-Op by Volunteer Dundee are two examples of telephone befriending services who are always in need of volunteers!
Many third-sector organisations who are providing vital frontline support to our country’s most vulnerable will be feeling the pinch right now. It is wonderful to hear that many funders are pledging to be ‘as helpful as possible’ to the charities they support, but for many this will not be enough.
It is important that we provide extra support to the people who will be hardest hit by the pandemic, people who are elderly, homeless, or in care, amongst others.
Some wonderful charities working in these areas are:
As apocalyptic as the world may feel right now, there will be a future. And we need to be prepared for it. The government has announced a support package for small businesses but, unfortunately, many of our favourite local businesses still might not make it if we do not look out for them now.
We have seen lots of small businesses owners suggesting that a good way to support them would be to buy gift vouchers to be used when everything has calmed down. This will help them with cashflow while business is down, and it gives you something to look forward to!
Many restaurants have introduced delivery services to keep business going while people are avoiding public places. Just make sure that you let the restaurant know if you are self-isolating or displaying symptoms so that the delivery driver can leave the food on your doorstep and avoid any spread of infection.
If you want to support your favourite local restaurant and your at-risk neighbours in one action – why not order their favourite dish to be delivered to their door. Support with no contact needed!
I have also seen some small businesses setting up crowdfunding to support their staff who will likely be out of work for the next few months.
Many people, staff as well as business owners, will be hugely impacted by the pandemic, giving money, if you are in a position to do so, is a great way to show solidarity and support.
These are difficult times for us all, but it is in difficult times that we often see the true force of community and compassion. In times of crisis, it is human nature for us to pull together and come through.
If you have other suggestions for ways support communities from afar, please let us know in the comments below or get in touch. With a collective effort and a strong community spirit, together we will make it through.