Cllr Mimi Harker is a councillor on Chiltern District Council.
As Mother Earth heals and replenishes, as fish miraculously appear in the now crystal clear waters in Venice, and as pollution levels plummet across the planet, the world is gripped by the feeling of helplessness as community after community is ravaged by an unknown terror. Covid-19 appeared from nowhere for the ordinary people going about their every day lives. Continents, countries, counties, towns, and villages locked down and locked away from this new enemy, whose presence only becomes visible when you are in the grips of the horrendous virus, in severe cases unable to breathe without help. It is terrifying. It has and is changing our lives completely. Who knows what the economy will look like at the end of all of this? How will our high streets survive? Small businesses? The self employed – the most vulnerable in the workplace economy.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the best and the worst – a clip from Facebook: “Keep an eye out for a shoplifter in Amersham. I was behind him in the supermarket queue just now. He has a mask on. Runs in and out again with wine. He may be trying all shops now”. Then there are the incredible frontline workers who are risking their own lives to save ours.
The least we can do is absolutely everything to avoid contracting a disease that will create untold havoc within the health system. Local authorities have responded and risen to the challenge but more than that, from my experience as a community volunteer, I see the incredible army of ordinary people who have stepped away from their everyday lives and who have become the lifeline for the vulnerable and self isolating. In my local area, within a three mile radius, there are at least three voluntary groups reaching out to people who may need help with shopping and prescriptions, helping people who are lonely and isolated – “please let me know if you would like me to call you” it says on the cards that we have put through every door.
Single points of contact (SPOC) have been set up for every road. I am the SPOC for my road and have been blown away by the offers of support from the rest of the road. WhatsApp groups to keep everyone informed – and offers of shopping, the Skype chats, the yoga class on Zoom I participated in this morning…
The teams of volunteers that have responded to the NHS call for help, over 750,000 of us, to supermarkets trying to help the community, to help the individual stuck indoors without anyone, what an amazing community heart and spirit has been brought out, shining, strong and reliable. As chairman of Community Impact Bucks, the umbrella organisation for the voluntary, community, and charity sector in Buckinghamshire, I was delighted to host the board meeting on Team, and interviewing potential new trustees with fellow board members as well. A local garage offered a nurse their courtesy car so she could carry on travelling to and from work, when her car broke down – no charge, just thank you for saving our lives. The local churches are conducting services online. The family running the local fruit and veg stall are currently doing home deliveries to the vulnerable and self isolating. Local restaurants are running takeaway only services. Small businesses are being entrepreneurial and changing their offer to meet the demand by the public for their creature comforts like coffee and bread – who would ever have thought they would be luxury items. Let’s support them. If you can afford it, please let’s treat the family to a takeaway once a week, let’s put a down payment on a haircut.
Let’s help deliver the food parcels to people who can’t get out to collect them. Let’s all do whatever we can to support without endangering lives.
The fear, the intense disruption, the clouded crystal ball, where the future is shrouded in the unknown consequences of trying to save human lives, there is a sliver of hope. This will pass. We will get through this. We have seen some incredible acts of kindness, help and support. I hope we have learnt some valuable lessons never to be forgotten. I hope we remember that the frantic relentless pace of life creating mental health issues, health problems, stress, strain, and an inability to really appreciate our world, may not be as essential as we thought it was. Through the horror of this unexpected nightmare, we must remember the beauty of the time we spent with our families, whether blood or community, and the pleasure in simple conversation with our fellow human beings.
Despite the direness of the circumstance we now find ourselves in, it is refreshing to witness this reawakening of the human spirit, the caring of our fellow man, and the collective responsibility. The community we thought we didn’t have is alive and kicking – it has been there all this time. We just needed something like this to show us it was always there.