Volunteers across Hampshire help the vulnerable through coronavirus lockdown

Volunteers across Hampshire help the vulnerable through coronavirus lockdown

Local people are joining together to create a network of volunteers across Hampshire to help vulnerable people during the coronavirus lockdown.

As vulnerable people across Hampshire are having to self-isolate and can’t leave their homes due to coronavirus, an army of volunteers is stepping up to offer support. Community volunteer groups have been created across Hampshire to ensure that no one in the area goes without essentials such as food and medication.

In Winchester, local resident and trainee priest, Marianne Foster is coordinating the Mutual Aid Winchester Facebook group along with four others. The Mutual Aid group was set up 2 weeks ago and already has over 3,000 members all offering their help.

The Facebook group is a community forum for requesting and providing help to those in need. It is also a platform for sharing information on how to access essential food, medication, supplies and services. They are currently working closely with Hampshire County Council, Winchester City Council, Community First and by Civil Parish Council who are referring people to them.

Mutual Aid Winchester Admin, Marianne Foster said: “The Mutual Aid Winchester effort is about the common-sense human value of neighbourliness, which is the disposition to be friendly and helpful to neighbours. This is all about community members looking out for each other. We want to both help contain the spread of the virus and support those most at risk.”

All of Hampshire’s volunteer groups are helping vulnerable individuals by delivering food, picking up prescriptions, posting letters, and offering a friendly voice at the end of the phone to help reduce the sense of isolation. Each area has a lead contact who will take the requests for help and organise a response from a volunteer closest to that person in need. Areas have been flyered with the relevant contact details of their local group.

Marianne and the other group coordinators set up the group to not only coordinate volunteering efforts, but to encourage people to come together as one, collectively helping one another and create a stronger community. Marianne works in safeguarding and is currently studying with the Diocese of Winchester’s School of Mission to be ordained as a priest. She has been using her expertise in safeguarding and is talking with the council and other agencies to help set up the networks needed to deliver help safely. 

The Right Reverend Debbie Sellin, Bishop of Southampton said: “It fills me with joy to see how our communities are coming together to show love for our neighbours. The last few weeks have brought sorrow and anguish, but I have also witnessed an outpouring of compassion. I am amazed, but not surprised, by the huge numbers of people who have come forward to offer help to others at this time, whether through national volunteering schemes, on local community groups, or in everyday acts of kindness.

“It gives me great hope to know that people of all faiths and none are joining together in finding new ways of supporting our communities. I am increasingly confident that, when we have got through the worst of this current crisis, our communities will emerge stronger than ever before.”