Solidarity

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

WORDS don’t often fail me, but over the last few days I have struggled to find the right ones to encapsulate what is happening across the Bay and across the country.

I came close on Thursday night when doors and windows were briefly thrown open to allow the sound of clapping to fill the night sky across the Bay in tribute to the army of caring people putting themselves at risk to help others.

That includes the NHS of course, but elsewhere there are a thousand kindnesses being exchanged every minute – shopping for neighbours, delivering prescriptions, or simply checking in on someone who had slipped off the radar.

Far be it for me to blow our own trumpet, but the team that is the Torbay Community Development Trust have been at the forefront of the caring response since the crisis blew up two weeks ago.

Everything else was dropped and all our efforts were focussed on helping others across the Bay – putting people in need in touch with people prepared to help and the response has been, at times, overwhelming.

Working alongside our colleagues at Healthwatch Torbay, Age UK Torbay and Brixham Does Care, we have had teams of up to five people staffing the phones from eight in the morning to eight at night responding within just a few hours to sometimes desperate cries for help.

We have had tearful exchanges with terrified self-isolators low on medications, out of food and out of money and by mobilising some amazing people, not least our own community builders, we have been able to help.

Sometimes all that is needed is a virtual shoulder to cry on, the sound of a friendly voice or some straight talking no-nonsense non-medical advice borne out of us all being in this together.

We listen to the worries of families that are separated sometimes by just a few miles and sometimes by oceans, unable to visit their ageing parents, relatives and siblings and not knowing when they will again.

I have no idea what the Blitz spirit was, I wasn’t there, but this week I have spoken to some people who were, and they again pause to marvel at the fortitude of the human spirit at times of crisis.

But they are also keen to point out that this is a different crisis and therefore one that does not have an instruction manual, nor experience to learn from  – even during the war, the pubs remained open and people were able to take to the streets, albeit cautiously.

One ninety-one-year-old summed it up: “I thought I had lived through the lot – wars, Asian flu, terrorism in our own backyard, but now this? “

Most of us have only been locked down for a week and this is just the beginning. For some it might simply seem like an unexpected holiday, a chance to catch up on all those jobs around the home.

Sharing platforms like Facebook and Twitter and virtual face to face video call providers like Zoom and Skype have seen unprecedented increase in demand as we touch base with friends and relatives around the world to share unreal experiences.

And we know, having seen the same in Italy and Spain, that the worst is still to come. The most vulnerable in our communities – our friends, our neighbours are going to need us more than ever.

More people – older people, the vulnerable, young families, those that have lost their jobs will all begin to feel the pinch as the money and the food runs out. But we will be there for them.

So far, we have taken more than 2,000 calls on the 01803 446022 and 01803 857727 numbers and as well as identifying those who need our help, we have also recruited an army of volunteers poised to provide support.

Our community builders have been amazing, some working round the clock, regardless of the risk to themselves. They have queued for hours for food, even longer for prescriptions and have done endless runs to the foodbanks.

If ever there was a team of people that you need in a crisis then it is the team of which I am proud to be a part – the Torbay Community Development Trust and partners team. To rewrite a well-known quote: “Cometh the hour, cometh the TCDT Team”.

If you need help, or want to offer help, ring 01803 446022 or in Brixham 01803 857727 from 8 am to 8 pm; sign up at: www.bit.ly/torbayhelpline or if you want to organise your neighbours to help each other: www.bit.ly/torbaymicrovol.

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