Our thanks to the reader who has shared this helpful advice for anyone wanting to set up a scheme to help their neighbours during the Coronavirus (Covid-19/C19) outbreak. Ed
A lot of our neighbours who are self-isolating because they are older or have medical conditions, which make it very hard for them to fight off the virus. There are also other neighbours who may have the virus and because they are sick, they are staying at home to recover and not spread the virus as they are contagious.
They all might have some family across the Island to help them with a big shop, but some don’t, and really most just need a friend to pick up a few things at the shop or their medications for them.
Neighbourhood help groups
Here’s one way to organise a neighbourhood help group. Ask (keeping your distance) a few healthy neighbours along the road to help you.
Split up the road and go door to door to households with a pad of paper and a pen with the following headings: “house number, name(s), phone number, email, alone?, family?, wants help?, can help?” Do NOT enter the house and keep your distance from anyone who answers the door.
Create a neighbourhood contact directory
Explain that you and other neighbours are creating a neighbourhood contact directory and help team, so that anyone who finds themselves self-isolated can ask for help and that they can have a list of names, phone numbers, and email addresses to contact.
Explain that anyone who gets sick also might need help temporarily so this is not only for elderly or is isolated people. Ask everyone permission if they are OK with sharing their name, number, and email with all of their neighbours. Ask non-isolating people if they would like to help the neighbourhood network as well.
Advise any vulnerable neighbours not to give money to anyone that they do not personally know – prevent scams.
Get all of their information on your pad of paper, then ask them if they would like to take your name and phone number – do NOT give them your paper and pen to write with – it could have the virus on the paper and pen.
When you have spoken with everyone, compile all names, numbers, and email addresses into one list. Wash your hands and put fresh paper into the printer. Print out the list and with clean hands, carefully put them through the letterbox of each house.
Remember that the letterbox flaps could have the virus on it, and you don’t want to get you or the person sick. Create an email group and email everyone an introduction.
From there, depending on the size of the group and the needs, you might want to create rotas of who should check on whom for supplying food, and ringing particularly vulnerable folks for conversation so no one gets too lonely. Make sure that those isolating know that they can ring anyone on that list.
Be careful with handling money someone wants to give you for groceries or NHS pharmacy charges – it also could have the virus on it. You may need to wash it with soap and water. Where possible, try to reimburse people electronically so no virus passes by hand.
Wash your hands
Remember, when you do deliver food or medication, wash your hands before shopping and after shopping. Wash your hands before delivering the bag of food.
Put the food, etc in a clean bag. Ring them or text them when you are coming and leave it on their doorstep. Do not give them the food in person.
Not everyone will want help
Don’t take offence if someone says they don’t need help and don’t want to participate – a lot of people are feeling quite anxious, and sometimes that comes out in fear or anger.
This will help people not have to break the rules to go get food and medicine and keep people from getting too lonely. And you also will get to know your neighbours a little bit better and do a very good deed!
Remember, keep your distance! You might be contagious because you can have the virus for up to 14 days before you feel sick.
Other ways to help
There are some great charities and volunteer groups around the island that are also trying to recruit helpers. See the Isle of Wight Volunteer Centre and Community Help on Facebook for more info.
Image: Dhaya Eddine Bentaleb under CC BY 2.0