Communities coming together....

We want to celebrate the truly inspiring volunteer efforts supporting the community during lockdown ......involving people from all walks of life, age and social groups.  Lara Sysum, 29, tells the story of the Ledbury Covid-19 support group, one of hundreds around the county connecting people within the community:

"I began the Ledbury Covid-19 support group on the 15th March, to help members of the community come together to provide assistance during the Covid-19 outbreak. I had not expected the group to become so large and so engaging the way it has, it has really pulled the community together, and our ages range from 17-69!  Originally we had planned to set up a small amount of volunteers who’d be willing to help distribute “I can help cards” to members of the community with their phone numbers on.  It was overwhelming how many people wanted to help, we soon had over 170. We managed to cover the whole of Ledbury and surrounding areas with volunteer contact cards within 3 weeks. From that, we now have over 100 active volunteers helping members of the community who need assistance. This could be anything from collecting prescriptions, doing weekly food shops, posting letters and parcels, getting essential items to those that need it and also just a friendly voice at the end of the phone wanting to listen. On average we have roughly between 30-40 members of the public who use our volunteer services weekly, sometimes less, sometimes more. We also provide information on all businesses that can offer home delivery services, wellbeing and mental health support information, and other hints and tips to keep those in isolation occupied. The group has gone from strength to strength!  

We work closely with Community Action Ledbury and the Food Bank to ensure the needs of the vulnerable/struggling can be met. We have supplied volunteers to Community Action Ledbury as many of their volunteers were over 70 and were having to isolate, plus helping keep the food bank going by encouraging food donations. We now work closely with the council who have been fantastic in supporting the group behind the scenes. They have provided us with ID badges and letters so we can easily be recognised as volunteers when out and about in the community, as well as supplying us with hand sanitisers and any other items we may need. We have recently just completed an essential business directory of local businesses who can deliver essentials such as food and hardware, plus contact numbers such as local vets, pharmacies and mental health support. Again, these are being distributed through all Ledbury household doors by volunteers. We now have a small dedicated team of volunteers who are going above and beyond to help our local pharmacy deliver prescriptions to those who need them. This is working incredibly well and I can’t thank the volunteers enough for giving up their own time and fuel to ensure the community has their medication.

We’ve also helped those who may be a little more in need of learning material by donating items such as craft activities and books for children at home. To be honest the list goes on and I could name so many other fantastic things our group and volunteers have done. The group works efficiently and practically and very quickly! For me, I am incredibly proud of the town I live in, Ledbury really has pulled together and we are a fantastic community. It has really opened my eyes to the effects of being isolated. Social interaction is so important for your well being, and there are many residents in Ledbury that are completely alone. Having a volunteer there who can assist them with their shopping and also just have a friendly chat on the phone for half hour goes a really long way. I have met so many wonderful people who I perhaps would never have spoken to before or in future but now I class them as good friends. All my admin and moderator team have been so supportive and fantastic. These include my sister Katie Sysum, Jess Howard, James Hill, Tracey Smith, Sarah Osbourne (our council co-ordinator) and Rory Johnson who all have done and keep doing a fantastic job."