Lending a hand in the new year

By Matt Saunders, Marketing & Communications Assistant

The beginning of a new year always feels rather odd to me – weeks of frantic preparations leading up to these final days of the year, then comes Christmas day with lots of traditions and treats in store, you emerge from having caught up with lots of family and friends, spend a few days losing track of time in a food and drink-induced stupor between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, ring in the new year, and then suddenly boom…back to reality.

Of course, this is assuming your Christmas and New Year’s went relatively similar to how they were pre-Covid, with little in the way of compromises – which of course, the reality is we’ve all had to compromise a lot in the last two years, but certainly some have more than others, and we cannot forget that.

Omicron, the variant which has spread like wildfire, is still surging strong. Despite reports of milder cases overall, we cannot understate the damage it is causing to our way of life, as currently, our NHS is overwhelmed, schools are now reopening with stricter mask rules, and plans for introducing further nation-wide measures are still being mulled over.

This has also meant many are still shielding, still missing out on their pre-Covid lives, still needing plenty of help from kindly neighbours, volunteers, and local services. Many are still needing support from foodbanks, financial advice, mental health aid, and then some, just some of a myriad of complications affecting the lives of Torbay residents.

Since March 2020, the Torbay Community Helpline has strived to answer as many of these calls for support as possible, adopting the slogan of “One call, that’s all” as a helpline determined to be a single point of contact for any help required. This dedicated team of volunteers from all walks of life around the bay, and staff from the helpline’s fantastic partnership of organisations, have constantly stepped-up efforts to help wherever possible. From initially helping with collecting shopping and prescription medication for those housebound, to over the phone befrienders lending a friendly ear to those who need to share and chat through highs and lows, and our team of Vaccination Centre marshals in Torquay and Brixham, who have braved all sorts to help those getting vaccinated feel at ease and reassured, in the good hands of a team determined to do their bit.

Many of you answered our call for extra volunteers towards the end of 2021, to which I cannot thank you enough, as the people of Torbay have proved throughout 2020 and 2021 that they are prepared and more than willing to lend their time and efforts simply for the sake of helping those around them. We here at Torbay Community Development Trust are constantly staggered by your generosity and determination, and we continue to advocate that your efforts are crucial to shaping the bay with your support, care, and enthusiasm.

If you’d like to or need to contact the helpline to seek or offer help, call 01803 446022, or search “Torbay Community Helpline” online for the digital form.

On the topic of a bay’s worth of support, care, and enthusiasm, we run a website called Torbay Together, the sharing website for a variety of opportunities in Torbay. What sort of opportunities? These are opportunities to connect with your community – volunteering, socialising, services, and lending time (quite literally) in the Torbay Timebank, a system for exchanging time (credits) for favours owed, putting your skills and knowledge to use, be it something along the lines of helping change someone’s lightbulbs or putting out the bins, to learning how to knit or walking someone’s dog.

This website is a means for both searching for these opportunities, and for sharing these opportunities. The search function enables you to comb through the areas of the bay, through interests and other criteria, and find something for you. It could be a local coffee morning to meet mates, see if any local events need volunteers, or if anyone needs your skills or know-how.

To find Torbay Together, go to www.torbaytogether.org.uk. If you’d like to talk to someone about using Torbay Together to either find or share anything, get in touch with the team – Paul Trainer, Information Officer on 07971 951429 / paultrainer@torbaycdt.org.uk, Sandra Harper, Torquay Timebank Broker on 07966 743125 / sandraharper@torbaycdt.org.uk, or Ruth Tshoukas, Paignton Timebank Broker on 07703 715236 / ruthtshoukas@torbaycdt.org.uk.

A phrase we use a lot which summarises the trust’s work in a nutshell: “We have what we need, when we share what we have”