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Exeter Community Wellbeing volunteers continue to respond

Published: 22 May 2020

Community volunteers Community togetherness is growing

Exeter Community Wellbeing is now eight weeks old and has become an integral part of Exeter’s crisis response to COVID-19.

The service, which you can contact by phone or online (details below), connects volunteers and organisations with those who require support. To request assistance during these challenging times, or to offer your time to support people in your community, get in touch with Exeter Community Wellbeing to get connected.

The service has made a large number of connections so far and is still going strong. Tens of thousands of leaflets through doors, frequent shout outs on the radio and in the local news as well as sharing of the helpline details across GP practices, local groups, not for profits and volunteer networks, have all contributed to making sure everyone gets access to the right support.

Communities together

The Exeter community continues to share the love as we find our way through another week of restrictions. The separation from friends and family can be a lot to bear, but we are over the moon to discover that people in our city are finding safe ways to overcome feelings of isolation.

From check-in-and-chat phone calls to assisting people to use new technology to chalked messages on the pavements, we are demonstrating our values by finding ways to be together safely.

Young Shams has been missing her reading buddy Felicity and so Shams’ mother, Maisaa, hatched a plan to get the pair singing together, Felicity sitting at the entrance to the garden and her small friend on the doorstep.

“They both enjoyed it and it made them feel relaxed as this quarantine is stressful for both.” Maisaa has also been organising her little helpers to make beautiful cards for residents in The Dales nursing home in St James. The cards were included in the free art packs sent to the home by Art Club Exeter.

Residents in the Pennsylvania area have been enjoying some very sociable distancing in this summer weather and got their deckchairs out onto the street to enjoy the sunshine.

A joke of the day features in a car window in the area and brings a smiles to passers-by, along with much discussion amongst locals.

The recent boom in Zoom get-togethers and video call quizzes is exciting but sometimes leaves out those who don’t feel confident with this technology, so St Katherine’s Priory arrange a regular email quiz to keep their quiz teams and community having fun together.

Volunteers coordinating

The Wellbeing Exeter Community Builders are in constant touch with their local residents and volunteer networks. The city wide effort to make sure everyone is supported at this time has opened many opportunities to link together volunteers, community hubs, local charities and other initiatives, which might otherwise have been working separately.

This joining of efforts has accelerated over the past months and the intention is that no one falls through any gaps; that everyone has access to basic necessities and greater wellbeing.

A great example of this is the Pennsylvania Community Support Group, which was set up nearly a month ago and works with the local Community Builder and Exeter Community Wellbeing.

One of the earlier moves to get the word out was to put up cheerful posters all over the area. They were initially produced and laminated by volunteers but are now being professionally printed for free!

The residents arranged this group to organise local volunteers and so far it has helped link over 70 people with a local volunteer to assist with ongoing food shopping, dog walking or simply keeping in touch. This has become the main support group in the Pennsylvania ward and it is getting daily assistance requests through the Exeter Community Wellbeing helpline as well as through local networks and word-of-mouth.

Residents call the helpline, which sends details to the Support Group, then the Pennsylvania volunteers spring into action to make things happen.

A resident in the Whipton area, Jenny, told one of the local volunteers: “At the start of the crisis I was really struggling, it was very difficult. I only had snack food in the cupboard and I need to take my medication with food. I got the government’s food box but have stopped that now. It was my doctor’s surgery which recommended I get help from your support group.”

Jenny can’t see her son and family who live in Jersey or her best friend of 50 years, who lives in Exwick. Her volunteer work at a charity shop has stopped and she not only required appropriate food and supplies but was also feeling emotionally isolated.

The Community Builder who helped get Jenny supplies also suggested that she might like more social contact and Jenny is thrilled to now have chats on the phone at least twice a week with other local residents.

Everyone’s lifestyle is unique and there is no knowing what requests are going to come through the helpline from one day to the next. One of our team received a less than usual request recently, which admits caused some head scratching.

A lady had called the helpline to find out where she could buy a ‘grabber’ to help pick things up from the floor. The local Community Builder told us: “I looked online to see if any local shops sold them but they were sold out or had a long waiting time. I was just thinking I would have to send the referral back when I remembered that one of the volunteers was on furlough from Devon Disability Collective, so I phoned him up.

"He said it was something they had in stock and that some of the mechanics were still working in the warehouse, so he would be happy to go in and buy one. He phoned the lady to discuss the best equipment for her needs and it was delivered to her door the same day!”

We want to give a big shout out to all the volunteers in communities across the city, who are organising and working together to form a tight safety net for their neighbours.

Incredible personal effort goes in to make sure everyone is supported and feels connected and looked out for. It’s these individuals, who often fit in their good deeds around their own work, family or challenges, who make our city-wide support effort work for everyone.

If you require support or know of someone who does, or if you would like to volunteer to be contacted if someone nearby could use your assistance, get in touch with the helpline to join the wellbeing network.

Exeter Community Wellbeing - phone 01392 265000. Lines open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun 9am-12 midday

For more information visit the Exeter Community Wellbeing pages on our website.  


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