VIEW FROM THE FRONT LINE
First a thanks to all of the Hubs who are working so hard to keep food supplies going for their communities. And a huge thanks to Absolute Print in Archway for donating lots of face visors to protect volunteers!
Primrose's reflections ...
I joined Octopus as a Community Development Officer just weeks before we were closing the office and transferring to homeworking as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. I am assigned to the StayWell, LiveWell project, which is a collaborative project between eight of the community centres involved in the Octopus Community Network.
In just a few weeks, I have had to get to grips with new ways of working, new technologies and being separated from the team. However, we are now more used to work using project management and collaboration software … well, we are slowly getting there, and meeting online.
At the heart of our work is community development and on a day-to-day basis we are always humbled by the way communities support one-another here in London.
As a result of the Covid-19 crisis, people in the community have been coming together to give support in whatever ways they can. People are now mindful of their surrounding and showing their caring side than before, for example respecting and giving room courteously to others when going in a shop or on the road. Neighbours are checking up on one another by giving each other practical and moral support, for example, offering to do shopping or picking up medication from the pharmacy for those in isolation. People are more aware of who their neighbours are on their streets and have a chat which I have observed when we go out briefly on Thursdays 8pm to clap for the carers and NHS workers.
Individuals are giving up their time and resources for the good of the community during these tough times. We have a lot of volunteers coming together, for example the Mutual Aid group as well as our amazing volunteers who are helping out at the food banks, meal delivery for the food project etc. Tutors are generously sharing their resources and ideas online for free.
Many of the Community Centres have re-purposed to become Community Food Hubs, and this has been done at such an amazing speed. Restaurants, food suppliers and even small local shops are kindly donating hot and take-way meals to those most need and unable to cook for themselves. For example, when I was talking to the owner of my local shop challenges people are facing getting food supplies and community centres are working hard to feed those in need, he was happy to donate goods towards the food parcel that the centres deliver to those affected by Covid-19.
It is without doubt that the Community Centres have had to adapt how they are deliver services to their members and it is truly amazing to see how they have continued to support and work on behalf of their local communities. As well as responding to the need for food, many of the Centres have been able to transfer activities online, including Art and Craft sessions, Zumba, Fitness and Mindfullness and also telephone counselling services which was previously done face to face amongst other services.
Update from Tsigereda, Octopus's Network Development Officer
I’m homeworking, so of course, I am frequently interrupted by my children asking about what I am doing. Just the other day, my daughter started to ask a lot of questions about what I was doing and why. After a long discussion, she went on to produce the following, which I want to share with you.
Coronavirus has changed our lives significantly. The measures taken by the government like the lockdown are needed but have had negative impacts on: food poverty, mental health, physical health (exercise) furthermore social distancing has caused people to feel isolated and there to be a lack of unity. Before covid-19 All 14 Octopus Community Hubs mission was to help address food poverty, health inequalities and improve wellbeing. They did this by providing a place for activities to be done and organizing local community events, this has now become unavailable due to evident reasons.
These 14 hubs have had to adapt quickly and efficiently. The first week of lockdown was a shock to all staff but they quickly recovered and formed a plan. They have created parcels, toiletries, food delivery, telephone and online activities. There have been challenges such as a shortage of food and toiletries, lack of funding and a need for workers but this hasn't stopped them.
Donations, volunteers and the Islington council have been vital to the running of this project. A local resident has kindly made and donated 100 masks in 3 days for the volunteers. The administration team, centre managers and CEO have become cooks and drivers - they are working overtime. Colin, chair of Octopus Network /Brickworks manager has become an avid driver; Nathalie, Elizabeth House manager has become a sous chef in the kitchen.
In light of this, a positive impact has been the union of the community, this project has created a stronger partnership not just within the Octopus Community Hub and its collaborators but also with the volunteers and residents. This is an inspiring story. It comforts the residents of Islington as it shows us that in these unpredictable, scary times, we have a support system to rely on.