A year ago the UK was put into the first national lockdown. Aimed at curbing the spread of new virus Covid-19, the new restrictions were likely to make day to day life difficult for some of the most vulnerable members of society. Recognising this Tim Roberts and Julia Ewart had the idea to begin a good neighbour scheme to support the community through the challenging weeks ahead.
Quickly, as the call for volunteers was answered by dozens, the scheme snowballed and gained momentum to become the Good Neighbour Scheme for 3 villages, supporting a population of nearly 11,000 due to the wide geographical area covered by the local doctor’s surgery.
Initially the lockdown was set to last 12 weeks, and we estimated that IP17GNS would be a temporary organisation.
Now, a year later we are busier than ever and making plans for the next 12months too. With an army of volunteers currently 157 strong, we support approximately 10% of the local population.
In the last year we have achieved a great deal, with no intention of slowing down!
Supporting our community through Covid-19
- Providing our general GNS services every day since mid-March 2020: food supplies/prescriptions/phone buddies/general advice and support/community broadcasts
- Sign-posting to other support, Government and GNS groups
- Coordinating activities with the NHS CCGs, our local and county councils, the Suffolk Resilience Forum and other relevant community/charitable bodies
- Raised over £35,000 and diligently spent over £20,000 supporting our community of over 5,000
- Referring those in need to food bank/support services
- Providing food collection points in Saxmundham, Benhall and Kelsale to enable people in need to help themselves
- Coordinating the distribution of RFT (Rapid relief Team food boxes to vulnerable families)
- Book/board games exchange
Going the extra mile
- Equipment searches via Facebook to find items to assist key workers and service users, e.g., exercise bike, push bikes, mobility aids, fridges, furniture for those recently rehomed
- Assisted finding vans/transport for service users to move, dispose of unwanted household items or travel to medical appointments
- Assisted Community Midwife by arranging volunteers to transport pregnant/new mums to hospital for appointments
- Linked service users to local trades people
- Assisted a service user to find a cat as a companion
- Assisted a disabled service user to have their home adapted for their needs, i.e., security light and key safe fitted by “Your Sweet Home”
- Arranged birthday cakes for special birthdays of service users at 90, 75 and 13
- Hosted activities to encourage exercise and reduce social isolation, e.g., family rounders, yoga and line dancing. (These are currently on hold but will resume as soon as we are able)
- A number of service users who are shielding & looking for something to do have been provided with fabric and bunting patterns to create miles of bunting to decorate Sax high street during summer
- Encouraged services users to give something back to the community such as; our lovely Brian has been servicing sewing machines for donations to IP17GNS to ease his boredom
A safe & happy Christmas 2020:
Arranged a series of events to boost morale in the IP17GNS community over Christmas 2020. Including:
- A Christmas card exchange between schoolchildren and senior citizens and those isolating,
- A Santa Sleigh Run,
- Carol concerts at all local nursing/care homes and a ‘Drive-in Carol Concert’ at a local industrial estate, which welcomed over 60 vehicles
- 25 Christmas hampers and three family Christmas dinner bags were delivered to local families in need.
- 197 home-prepared Christmas meals to the vulnerable and those home alone on Christmas Day and throughout the Christmas period
Lockdown 3.0, access to learning:
- Collected unwanted laptops and tablets to help local young people with online home learning (currently we’ve paired up just over 50 laptops and tablets to families in need)
- Provided language and numeracy tutoring for struggling parents (for example non-English-first-language)
Facilitating the local vaccination programme:
- Worked alongside Saxmundham Health to provide stewards to manage queues and car parks for both the Flu and Covid-19 Vaccination Clinics
- Worked with East Suffolk Council to appoint volunteers who could provide transport for the CEV and disabled to vaccination centres and for other urgent medical appointments
- With help from our volunteers, Saxmundham is reportedly the most vaccinated town in the UK.
Community Fridge now open:
The community fridge is a way of redistributing good food to all members of the IP17GNS community, primarily to reduce food waste. It’s a simple solution to sharing good food that would otherwise be binned. (To also include school uniform exchange and food production demonstrations such as apple pressing, cheese making etc)
We want to say an enormous thank you to all of our volunteers, both past and present; as well as every company or individual who has donated funds, facilities and free time to help us serve the community.
We have experienced such enormous community spirit and feelings of togetherness that if it’s possible to draw one positive from the most heart-breaking, challenging year behind us; it’s that we live surrounded by the most caring, generous, giving people who have helped us get through it together.