Coronavirus: Volunteer army helps those who are isolated



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PA Media

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Volunteers have been carrying out different tasks, including deliveries

Delivering prescriptions and medicine to people self-isolating and collecting food from the community to distribute around the city.

These are some of the jobs being carried out by the 1,700 people who have signed up to help with the Cardiff Third Sector Council.

In total, 30,070 people are registered with Volunteering Wales, with 16,637 offering their services since March.

The largest number – 2,928 – are in Cardiff, with 1,333 in Swansea.

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“In mid-March when the official lockdown began and the advisory from the Welsh and UK governments for social distancing, we set up the Covid-19 response call to action,” Ebed Akotia said.

“It has received a tremendous response.”

An app called “I can help” has seen people offer their services to deliver prescriptions from pharmacies and hospitals to people self-isolating.

Families struggling in Cardiff are also being helped through the Butetown Community Centre Food Box – with 12 parcels sent out on Wednesday and 15 on Thursday to areas including St Mellons, Ely and Grangetown.

The services co-ordinated by the Cardiff Third Sector Council have also taken account of the diversity of the city, with information translated into Welsh, Farsi, Arabic and Somali.

People have signed up with Volunteering Wales for a variety of roles – including sharing positive public health messages on social media and distributing information to people without internet access.

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Thousands of people have been donating food

In Bridgend, 1,068 have signed up, 910 in Newport, 889 in Flintshire and 820 in Powys.

The Swansea Council for Voluntary Service temporarily suspended its recruitment drive after an “unprecedented response”.

During three weeks after the outbreak of coronavirus, 1,400 people registered, with it focusing on supporting those into the roles where they were needed most.

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Sri Ponnuswamy

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Sri Ponnuswamy’s initiative grew out of a community resilience group he set up following flooding

But not all volunteers are directly involved in helping people – with Sri Ponnuswamy connecting organisations.

“While the community of volunteers rushed to help each other, few looked ahead – specifically, on the needs of the volunteers and the community leaders that will be required in the following weeks,” he said.

Mr Ponnuswamy had already set up a group to help following flooding, and the aim is now to link up people helping in the current crisis in the same way.

“There are lots of community groups at street level that help residents but they have no experience of working with the elderly, managing risk of finance, getting cash from someone for shopping, for example,” he said.

“It sounds simple, but it can get complicated.”

Mr Ponnuswamy has set up groups in each area of Wales and is linking organisations such as homeless and food charities so they can exchange ideas and co-ordinate efforts.

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Getty Images

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Some of the 30,000 volunteers registered in Wales have been delivering prescriptions

But some people have been doing what they have always done, just in a different way – including the women’s voluntary organisation Merched y Wawr.

“We have been going 52 years and run 3,000 events across Wales, but Covid-19 has changed that for a short time,” said the organisation’s Tegwen Morris.

“The first thing we did was set up Phone A Friend. Anyone can call our office number for a chat, to keep in touch.

“It could be someone elderly or a young mother with two young children who needs help with chores or dropping a paper off.”

Ms Morris said the pandemic had highlighted how many people do not have access to internet and email, and the organisation’s 6,000 members have been providing “human contact” with these.

She added: “Our members are a cross-section of age groups and have started community hubs where the younger ones can collect prescriptions.

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Tegwen Morris

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Flowers have been created with knitting, photography and crochet

“Some of the older ones can just appreciate a conversation. The news is so sad, with morbid stories, they can feel lonely and isolated.”

There have been other initiatives such as a cookery group on Facebook that now has 14,000 members and a Home Not Alone initiative, urging people to create flowers of hope through knitting, photography and crochet.

The aim is that as well as occupying people, these can form exhibitions when the lockdown ends and create a display at next year’s National Eisteddfod in Tregaron, Ceredigion.

‘Huge impact’

While 16,000 people have registered with Volunteering Wales since March, 10,000 have not been placed, for a variety of reasons, including a scheme being full or they are not sure what type of work they want to get involved in.

A spokeswoman said: “There are also countless individuals who are volunteering locally on a less formal basis which isn’t captured through Volunteering Wales.

“Volunteering of this nature has had a huge impact on protecting communities and will continue to be vital in the next phase of the outbreak.”



BBC News

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