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Community First is rallying local volunteers in Fareham to support shielded people who are experiencing practical or emotional difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The local volunteer response began when Community First’s Home Helpers, Gardeners, Christmas Lunch volunteers, and Voluntary Car Service drivers immediately came forward to help during the pandemic. New local volunteers recruited via Volunteer Wessex, Community First’s dedicated volunteering website for Hampshire, soon joined the effort. The countywide response was so humbling that Community First have temporarily paused new recruitment to focus on deploying their existing bank of volunteers to local people, and signposting them to organisations that need help. Community First’s volunteer coordinator Fiona McCrae, a volunteer herself, has been working tirelessly to lead the local response, getting to know many volunteers and shielded people in the process.
Over the weeks, volunteers have supported hundreds of residents not only with shopping and prescriptions, but also with befriending, and everything from support with making rent payments to tending allotments. Volunteer Claire Jarman helps three couples through Community First, as well as two others who she knows personally. Claire said, “I really enjoy doing it, it just gives me a sense of worth. I live alone and I am still working from home for the civil service. It’s a sense of community, and it’s nice to have some company for myself as well as for them, with weekly phone calls and dropping by with shopping. I recommend volunteering for anybody wanting to gain confidence and help.”
Fareham residents Wendy and Reg Suter have been receiving regular food shopping deliveries from Claire. Mrs Suter said, “We’d like to say thank you very much to Claire from Community First for helping us with our shopping. We’d find it very difficult to go ourselves. It’s a super service, and we’re lucky to have found somebody to help.” Mr Suter added, “She’s been doing it for five weeks now, and she’s a gem as far as we’re concerned, she’s amazing.”
Community First CEO Tim Houghton said, “I would like to say a really big ‘thank you’ to all our volunteers and staff on the ground in Fareham whose exemplary efforts and kindness have supported and connected many people during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is great potential in these neighbourhood networks to improve the well-being of our communities both during and long after the current situation resolves. I hope that when this crisis has passed, we can continue to harness the enthusiasm and work with local residents and volunteers on an ongoing basis. Many people will still need support and can benefit greatly from a friendly person checking in and offering help when it is needed. We will continue working with our partners in Hampshire County Council, Fareham Borough Council and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Partnership of Clinical Commissioning Groups, to make life better for everyone in Hampshire.”
If you are shielding and need support, please call the Coronavirus Hampshire Helpline, Hantshelp4vulnerable, on 0333 370 4000. They will refer you to your local response centre, who will arrange for a volunteer to help you. If your organisation needs volunteers or support and advice, contact Community First at email@example.com or 0300 500 8085.
Interview with Fareham residents Wendy and Reg Suter
Volunteer Claire Jarman makes a delivery to the Suters