What did you do during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic?

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

More than a month into this crisis and people who are struggling to find ways to describe the experience, often refer to the wartime spirit.

Several times in the last week I have been lucky enough to talk to some of those who did live through WWII and they repeatedly make the comparison and refer to the kindness of their communities in times of adversity.

Here at the Torbay Community Development Trust where we are staffing helplines and responding to requests for help, as well as taking offers of help, we too can say that when the going gets tough, then people in the Bay get going.

daddy-what-did-you-do-in-great-warJust over a century ago, in 1915 during the First World War, a Government department came up with the slogan ‘Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?’ As a way of shaming people into stepping up and doing their bit.

Not surprisingly it came in for a lot of criticism and was the subject of heated debate for decades afterward. Thankfully, propaganda is no longer taken at face value, but many people will find themselves answering a very similar question in the future.

What did you do in the coronavirus crisis of 2020?

For thousands in Torbay, the answer will be succinct – we stayed inside, we locked our doors and we relied upon the kindness of others to stay fed and to stay healthy.

For the many volunteers that have come forward to make that possible, the answer will be different, because they are the ones that have ensured their neighbours have enough food and that their, sometimes life-saving, meds have continued to arrive as needed.

Across the Bay, communities are organising themselves in ways we haven’t seen since the World Wars, and they are ensuring that they are looking out for each other.

Our helplines – 01803 446022 and 01803 857727 are staffed 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and we are answering calls for help with offers of help, as locally as we can manage.

Every call we receive is graded – black is an immediate need; food has run out, meds have run out, the electricity or gas meter needs a top up and individuals or families are suffering.

Red is applied if someone is getting close to running out of meds or food and they will need deliveries of either or both within 24 to 48 hours.

Amber is when the need is less pressing and someone is warning that they will need help, but not for a few days. And then there is Green where someone has very sensibly realised that they will need help at some point in the future, but not just yet.

Community builders from TCDT and wellbeing coordinators from Age UK Torbay alongside community volunteers from the helpline are there for the emergencies and they have helped literally hundreds already.

Behind the scenes we are working hard to match up volunteers with people in need so that they can support each other throughout this crisis. We look for people who live relatively close to each other and then match offers with needs – hopefully for the duration, although of course illness can change everything,

By matching people together, we can look after prescription collections, food deliveries and even dog walking if required, and we can also provide much needed company for people – albeit through the safe medium of a phone. Our befriending service is growing and has the advantage that it can be done by people in isolation for people in isolation.

We are also helping communities that are self organising across Torquay, Paignton and Brixham at a street level, asking neighbours to look after each other and there are now 45 such schemes.

Some of them have swapped phone numbers, others have telephone trees to make sure no-one gets left out and others have set up WhatsApp groups to keep everyone in touch with each other.

They are doing each other’s shopping, they are having group chats and they are doing it all within their own communities, which continue to benefit by the day.

If the question is asked in the future – what did you do during the coronavirus crisis in 2020 then in Torbay at least I am pretty sure the answer will be – I looked after my neighbours and we are all stronger as a result.

To sign up as a volunteer go online: www.bit.ly/torbayhelpline or to help organise your street or neighbourhood go to: www.bit.ly/torbaymicrovol . Or ring one of our helplines.