SMARTY ways to help your community

The world is a strange place at the moment – lockdown has meant that we’re spending a lot of time in our own little bubbles. But it has also helped us to reflect on what it means to be a community. Hidden amongst the day’s serious news stories, are gems of kindness and hope, where neighbours have taken it on themselves to help out those more vulnerable.

If you think that you’d like to get involved in helping your community, there are lots things you can do:

Get to know the neighbours

Introduce yourself to your neighbours (in the safest possible way), exchange phone numbers and keep in touch. There are a lot of people living on their own – elderly and young – and isolation can take its toll on anyone. Sharing a kind word, a funny joke or just a simple hello, can make someone instantly feel less alone.

Perhaps there are specific tasks you’re willing and able to do to help them out if they need it.

“I’m able to walk your dog, chat via FaceTime, make pharmacy runs, and share my huge supply of toilet roll with anyone who has run out.”

You never know, you might make a life-long friend.

Why not follow in the footsteps of Becky Wass from Cornwall who created a print-at-home postcard template that you can post through your neighbour’s doors with your phone number and a list of things you’re happy to help out with.

Set up a community WhatsApp, Slack or Facebook group

People love to feel connected to the world around them – especially when things are uncertain. Setting up a place to share updates is a great way of keeping everyone informed. It’s also a place where people can ask for, and offer, support. And where more vulnerable members of the community can be remembered and looked after.

If you do create a group and people begin to share the things they’ve read and seen, it may be useful to moderate what’s posted. Fake news will help no one and can cause more angst and upset than no news at all.

Help out the less tech-savvy

You may be a whizz with a computer, but the reality is that a lot of people are not. This can prove a big problem for vulnerable members of the community who are unable to go out but need to do things like order their shopping online, deal with a doctor’s automated phone system or even just retuning their TV. Just knowing that there is someone to call if they’re having trouble can reduce stress, anxiety and keep people feeling positive.

Respect your noise levels

Now that we’re all stuck on top of each other, it might be a good time to remind you to be respectful of your neighbours. Don’t play your heavy metal music ‘til 3am. Don’t let the kids scream the house down before breakfast. And don’t practice your pogo stick in the upstairs flat. It may seem like a little thing, but it makes a big difference.

Be generous

We’re all worried about what the future will bring, and recently we’ve been worried about whether they’ll be toilet roll too! The crazy thing is, there’s no reason to fear a food or necessities shortage – but there will be if we all continue to stockpile. Be smart, be kind, be generous, and only buy what you need. Perhaps if you’ve picked up 3 packs of baby wipes and you see an exhausted mother looking at the empty shelf – offer her a pack – it won’t ruin your day, but it might make hers.

Join a volunteer scheme

There are plenty of ways to get involved in helping people. A number of volunteer schemes have been set up, but you can always make enquiries in your local area yourself – asking friends, neighbours and local businesses if there is any way you can help.

  • NHS Volunteer Responders: You will help carry out simple, non-medical tasks to support people in England who are self-isolating because of specific health conditions.

  • Volunteering Matters: Offer regular calls to elderly people who may be at risk of becoming lonely.

  • Do It: Sign up to be matched to someone needing help.

  • Mutual Aid: A band of volunteers supporting local community groups who are organising mutual aid, resources and connections for those in need, all across the country.

How to help others safely

It’s ok to help your friends, family and neighbours out. But remember to keep in mind the government’s rules on social distancing. If you want to help someone there are a few things you should bear in mind before you start:

  • Make sure you are well and have no symptoms like a cough or high temperature.
  • We recommend not putting yourself in danger if you are over 70, are pregnant or you have a long-term health condition that makes you vulnerable.
  • You should NOT go inside the home of anyone you don’t live with – you can leave shopping outside the door.
  • Maintain the 2m (6ft) distancing from anyone who you don’t live with. This includes people on the street, shop workers and the people you are helping.
  • Remember to wash your hands regularly with soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  • The types of things you can help people with are food shopping, collecting medication, staying in touch over the phone or social media and sharing trusted sources of information.

For more guidance, take a look at this government article:

  • SMARTY Team
  • April 16th, 2020