Cllr Meghan Gallacher is the Leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Group on North Lanarkshire Council.
As we face the third week of lockdown, it is understandable that people throughout the country are becoming restless. The stresses of modern day life have been replaced with a feeling of dread and detachment from society. Simple luxuries such as jumping in the car to visit friends and family are now a distant memory as we follow the advice from our Governments to stay home to save lives. Although it is difficult for many to be confined to their home for such a long period, I believe the challenges we face just now will bring positive change to many communities for future generations.
The coronavirus epidemic has reiterated how lucky I am to be a councillor in North Lanarkshire. Although we are restricted in how we interact with each other, communities across the local authority area have pulled together to provide help and support. As Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr Martin Luther King said, the greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.
I have witnessed many examples of compassionate actions in recent days, but one of the most humbling is the fantastic network St Andrew’s Hospice has established during this difficult time.
St Andrew’s Hospice is a charity which I hold dear to my heart. It is located in Airdrie, North Lanarkshire and provides specialist care to people living across the county with life-limiting illnesses. Most people in North Lanarkshire will have known someone who has received care here and in a time of crisis, this charity has stepped up to aid our community. Due to the skills and kindness of the St Andrew’s team, the charity is accepting all acute hospice inpatients admissions from North and South Lanarkshire during the Coronavirus epidemic. St Andrews Palliative Care team have also based themselves at the three acute care hospitals in North Lanarkshire to work alongside our NHS staff. Not only are their skills invaluable, they will also be able to provide much-needed support to our Health Service – which is under significant strain.
In return, the people of North Lanarkshire answered the call when St Andrews Hospice appealed for items such as surgical masks and hand sanitiser. Within hours of launching their appeal online, the charity received thousands of responses by an army of volunteers willing to help. Businesses such as Loch Lomond distillery – based in Alexandria – have turned their hand to making hand sanitiser which has benefited many in the care sector, including St Andrew’s hospice. These contacts will not only be beneficial now, but in the future, and the relationships formed between businesses, charities, and the local community will bring them closer together than ever before.
All areas of care have benefited from the kindness of people and businesses in North Lanarkshire. But, they have also benefited from North Lanarkshire Councils Education department. Teachers at St Margaret’s High School in Airdrie and St Andrews High in Coatbridge have been busy making visors for care homes and hospices since the epidemic worsened. To have such talented teachers across our school estate ensures that those looking after our loved ones have the tools to keep themselves safe whilst doing their important jobs.
Providing vital supplies is just one way in which communities in North Lanarkshire are pulling together. Another is food parcels which are being provided to many vulnerable people. The Kings Church in Motherwell, for example, is reaching out to members of the community to deliver meals. But this would not be possible without willing volunteers who are risking their own health to ensure the wellbeing of others.
Many local councillors from across the political divide have been setting up community groups, engaging with vulnerable people, and even signing up to volunteer for the British Red Cross. We even have examples of local councillors who are working on the front line of our NHS.
For those reading this – if you aren’t providing equipment or delivering food parcels – it doesn’t mean you are not doing your part. I have witnessed so many people posting positive stories online about the kindness of others. From messages of support online, to setting up a street WhatsApp Group, from reaching out to your friends, to calling your elderly neighbours for a chat, these are so many different ways of providing community support during this crisis. I only hope that this community spirit continues once we return to normality.
There is no doubt about it, we are fighting the biggest battle of our adult lives. I am safe in the knowledge that human kindness and compassion has prevailed in North Lanarkshire. I am proud of each and every volunteer, charity, community group, and business, which has put others before themselves. I am honoured to be part of a community which has selflessly worked in the best interests of others.
North Lanarkshire will emerge from this crisis stronger and closer than ever.