Becky Wass, 32, devised an innovative yet simple way to reach out to her neighbours: a PDF postcard offering practical help. Anyone can print it, fill it in and distribute it – and the cards have been shared widely across the UK already.
Wass, a freelance copywriter, told HuffPost UK: “My husband and I wanted to do something to help, but without making things worse.”
Becky my wonderful wife came up with a great idea last night, and it’s already going viral. Wash your hands, print this, fill it out and pop it in your neighbour’s letterbox. Simples. #viralkindness#COVID_19uk#coronavirusukhttps://t.co/wnxVhvk742pic.twitter.com/tnVQMIiSMI
— Jonny Green (@MrJonnyGreen) March 13, 2020
Community app Nextdoor has witnessed an “overwhelming response” from neighbours across the UK who are offering support locally. “From delivering shopping to picking up prescriptions, communities are uniting together to help those who need it the most,” a spokesperson tells HuffPost UK.
Using the app, Lucy, from Milton Keynes, offered to assist people in her area who are self-isolating – and had more than 50 people willing to help, too. The single mum-of-four was inspired to do something after realising she didn’t have a support network in place if she became ill. She wanted to organise the community for when, or if, a lockdown happens. Her aim is for everyone to have a neighbour they can rely on if needed.
Meanwhile Neal, who lives in Highbury, north London, was concerned elderly people might be afraid to leave their homes. He posted on the app to see if anybody needed help and so far, he’s done shopping and delivered papers for a few neighbours.
Elsewhere in the UK, a group of volunteers have formed Covid Mutual Aid UK – a national organisation supporting local community groups through the outbreak. It’s coordinated by Anna Vickerstaff, a campaigner based in London, who wanted to bring the efforts of local groups into one national resource.
The website connects people to their nearest local groups, willing volunteers and those in need. Vickerstaff set it up on Friday – 13 March – and more than 600 groups have already been listed. “We could sense there was a real element of panic with the stuff that was coming out from the news and the lack of adequate government response,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“We could see there was a real want from people to help the most vulnerable in their communities, so wanted to provide resources so people are able to step up and physically and emotionally support people – in a safe and efficient way.”
The response so far has been “really heartening”, she adds.
In Ireland, Samantha Kelly wrote to her 50,000+ Twitter followers that if they needed help or felt lonely, they could tweet her and she’d spread the word to try and connect people – and the #selfisolationhelp hashtag was born.
Since then, hundreds of people have offered to help others across Ireland and the UK using this hashtag. Taxi driver Ray O’Hara, from County Westmeath, Ireland, offered to pick up shopping and prescriptions (“or whatever else you might need”) and drop them at people’s doors.
“I just thought about the people [self] isolating and isolated in rural areas, particularly the elderly,” he tells HuffPost UK. “A lot of them have family that have emigrated overseas and have no one to look out for them.”
So many people are self isolating at the moment. Many have underlying illnesses. So if that is you and you would like help with anything or you are feeling lonely please tweet to me and I will spread the word so you can connect with others in the same situation. #Selfisolation
— Samantha Kelly (@Tweetinggoddess) March 10, 2020
Freelance radio producer Johnathan Randall turned the #selfisolationhelp hashtag into an interactive map so people could mark themselves as available, or find help more easily. “We needed a way to share these important gestures, and I thought it would be better if they could be placed on a map,” Randall, who is based in Dublin, tells HuffPost UK.
The map was launched on Saturday morning – 14 March – and the 26-year-old was only expecting a handful of volunteers to come forward. “We had 1,200 people add themselves over the first 24 hours and 3,000 in 48 hours,” he says. “I can’t believe how many people have been using it.
“What strikes me is that after such a tough week of news, people are made-up to see so much kindness in their region, and people want to be part of it.”
The #SelfIsolationHelp hashtag is excellent but it’s a bit hard to find helpers near you.
I’ve created this map where you can mark yourself as available to help.
If you think it’s useful, please share/RT – it only works if people use it.https://t.co/GK1CoUHHkb
— Johnathan Randall (@MrJRan) March 14, 2020
In Earlsheaton, west Yorkshire, butcher Dave Jones has offered his services to locals who might be struggling. Taking to Facebook, he wrote: “We are a community butchers shop and part of being in such a wonderful community is that in times of need we step up a notch. We will do all we can to ensure our elderly and vulnerable customers are catered for.”
The kindhearted butcher often provides free meat parcels to those who would otherwise go without – last year he offered them to parents who would’ve struggled to feed their kids over half term.
Further north, the owners of convenience store Day Today Express in Stenhousemuir, Falkirk, are giving away free face masks, antibacterial hand gel and cleaning wipes to elderly customers. They’re also offering a free delivery service to residents who are self-isolating. Asiyah Javed and her husband Jawad have become local celebrities thanks to the kind gesture, which has set them back £2,000 already.
“We are just trying to help people who can’t get out the house,” said Asiyah.
How can you step up?
If you are fit, healthy and have time to help others, offer support in your local community in the ways listed above. You can use local noticeboards (in libraries, for example), community apps, local Facebook groups, social media, and the kindness map.
There are lots of ways you can offer help, as long as you’re following NHS advice. Some ways to help include: checking in on older or more vulnerable neighbours, delivering food shopping, picking up prescriptions, donating to food and beauty banks, creating care packages with essentials for your neighbours, offering to look after pets or take a neighbour’s dog for a walk or putting the bins out for a neighbour.
“Take the time to acquaint yourself with your direct neighbours,” adds Nextdoor’s spokesperson. “If we all popped in and introduced ourselves to those living immediately around us, we would forge stronger and better connections. If your neighbour is not in, why not leave a note introducing yourself and leave your contact details?”