A year of community resilience

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

At the core of everything we do are people – wonderful people and whilst everything else has been different this year, people have remained our priority.

We might not have met as many face to face, but we have linked up with more people and put more people together in the last ten months than ever before.

In all our projects – be that Ageing Well Torbay, Positive People, SENDIASS Torbay, OurBus Torbay, Torbay Together Imagine This… or the Torbay Volunteer Centre – people are the glue that holds it all together.

Nevermore so than this year when our routines have been disrupted, our lives turned on their heads. People whether individuals, groups or organisations have shone through.

Time and again, we have seen people go the extra mile for each other, at a time when kindness and support has never been more needed.

Communities across the Bay have proved to be strong, and they have also shown to be resilient in the face of anything that can be thrown at them – even a global pandemic.

Some of the team have struggled, because our work puts people at the core of everything we do. Like everyone else we have had to adjust – find new ways of communicating, new ways of enabling and new ways of supporting others to help each other.

The Helpline has been there for most of it, (it launched in the second week of March, just before the first lockdown)  one call, that’s all covering everything – people who needed help and people offering help.

Our amazing staff and volunteers have helped more than 3,700 people with a whole range of support from shopping and food to collecting prescriptions, mental health support, and financial advice.

We were overwhelmed by people offering help throughout the crisis – more than 1,000 of them volunteering to help in any way they could – some were out and about collecting and delivering, others took to the phones to chat to those feeling lonely.

We have helped more than 800 people with their prescriptions – 700 of them on a regular basis. And we were able to go shopping for 750 people – more than 600 of them regularly.

The longer the crisis has gone one we have been able to provide mental health support for an increasing number of people and have been there for more than 300 of them when they most needed it.

For others – more than 250 of them – who have been feeling lonely and isolated we have been able to provide telephone befriending support and for some those regular phone calls are continuing.

We also continue to make referrals to the fabulous network of foodbanks operating across the Bay under the Torbay Food Alliance which has to date provided more than 300,000 meals and continue to do so at a rate of around 8,000 a week.

Last weekend’s announcement that we now face a new strain of the virus, means we need to be even more vigilant and can only see others for one day – Christmas Day and that has hit some very hard.

A lot of people, put a lot of hope into Christmas and they are now feeling like the rug has been pulled yet again. One step forward, too many steps back, all of which is taking its toll on people’s health and wellbeing.

We need people as much today as we have ever done. Christmas can be a desperately lonely time at the best of times, but this year, the prospects for so many people in the Bay are not good.

With that in mind, we will continue to staff the Helpline from (this week and next on reduced hours from 10am to 2pm, Monday to Thursday) on 01803 446022 so that we can continue to recruit volunteers and continue to help those who need them.

We are also on the lookout for people who have specialist mental health skills, in particular those with counselling skills who could join our growing team of specialist befrienders.

2020 has been tough, and whilst we can look forward to and hope for a better New Year, we are not our of the woods yet and we know that what we need more than anything right now is each other. People are amazing. Thank goodness.