While self-quarantines and social distancing increase isolation, the Covid-19 pandemic has also empowered communities to pull together.
Hundreds of people in the Waitaki district are using Facebook to connect those in need with those with time to help or skills to share.
In Oamaru, Steph Peters created the Facebook group “Covid-19 Oamaru Support Group” as a platform for people to help the most vulnerable in the Oamaru community.
“Things within our community are about to change, anxieties are running high and I had been noticing the offers of support in the community so I thought I’d at least try to bring them all together,” Mrs Peters said.
“I have elderly grandparents and my own mother is seriously immunocompromised. Unfortunately they don’t live nearby, but if I can run this page for someone else’s grandparent, mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter and so on, then hopefully someone will do the same for mine.”
The support group allows members to share community notices, offer support and identify those in need of support.
“This support could involve things like activities from running errands to the shops, to making phone calls, to providing a friendly voice of reassurance,” she said.
Membership of the group had “steadily increased” over the past week, she said.
“The numbers climbed to 400-plus members in the first few hours.”
Mrs Peters was supported by a team of administrators – Melissa Harvey, Nelunka Ormandy, Carole Wood, Leah McIntosh, Sonja McCullough-Roco and Christine Gregory-Hunt – to monitor the group.
“This page requires lots of eyes and ears for informative and appropriate information,” she said.
“I needed help to run it, this is a team effort and it’s very comforting to know that I have wonderful supportive people to help out and bounce ideas off.”
Group administrators had received messages from several people concerned about the pandemic and how it could affect them, especially those with health issues.
“We are asking these people to let us know should they need any assistance,” Mrs Peters said.
“We have successfully set up a family of four with supplies to see out their second week in isolation. I received a shopping list, generous people have donated some of what was on that list and then some.”
Members of the group could help by identifying those who were most vulnerable, she said.
“The message doesn’t seem to be reaching the elderly yet, which is a concern, we need to make as many people as we can aware of what support is on offer,” she said.
“All support and ideas are welcomed.”
Watching the community come together through the group had been “amazing and heartwarming”, she said.
“It really does restore your faith in humanity.
“We have had people offering to run errands, baking, soups, sanitisers, essential grocery items, bottled water and even wine.
“We are conscious of the potential risk involved with donated items which is why I have taken precautionary measures to make sure everything is appropriately sanitised before handing things on.”
There had also been several submissions of suggestions of activities for time in self-isolation.
“This is a great time for people to put their skills and talents to use whether they’re sewers, bakers or playdough makers, this is a really good time to be planning ahead,” she said.
At a glance
- Search for “Covid-19 Oamaru Support Group” on Facebook.
- If you are not online, call 03 551-5854
- The Oamaru Support Group volunteers will observe the Ministry of Health regulations.
- Anyone wanting to add their name to the list of volunteers, join the Covid-19 Oamaru Support Group on Facebook and contact admins.