Covid-19: how a small community is rising to a massive challenge

Eyemouth web

TFN hears about the work going on in the Borders town, which provides a snapshot of a grassroots effort is combating the Covid crisis in communities across Scotland

6th May 2020 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

The picturesque Borders town of Eyemouth may not be a place you associate with food poverty – however the community is facing up to many of the same problems as the rest of Scotland during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lockdown has left older and vulnerable people at risk, with voluntary groups coming together to provide vital support to those most in need.

A team of more than 50 volunteers – a sizeable proportion of the town’s 3,500 population – are now working flat out to offer all the help they can within the community. In the immediate response to the pandemic, almost a thousand volunteer hours were clocked up and as many as 200 meals a day are being cooked for the local community.

Organisations involved in the response include Eyemouth Community Centre, the Eyemouth Food Bank, Eyemouth High School and the local fire station. Local businesses have also lent their support.

“There are a lot of elderly people who live in Eyemouth, and there’s also a significant amount of people who live in food poverty too,” said Susie Hopewell, volunteer manager at the Splash Project, which normally runs a community space dedicated to improving wellbeing, skills and reducing barriers.

“A lot of people have had to isolate because of their age or their health.

“The Eyemouth Resilience Team has been absolutely fantastic. We have had a large number of volunteers come forward – the response has been great.

“Many of our volunteers are people who would normally be working in full-time employment, and are used to being busy, so they have found volunteering to be very rewarding.”

Volunteers are on hand to pick up all calls relating to shopping, prescriptions and food deliveries; with daily briefings taking place within the resilience team to ensure those involved remain informed. The response has seen local ministers cooking, young people getting involved, and a host of organisations working in partnership.

The system put in place is clear and supported by groups and people within the community. Splash is providing volunteer support and supervision to look at the positive work being done and learn what more the community needs and what help volunteers require to feel supported.

Although smaller in terms of numbers than similar projects happening in urban areas, the work going on in Eyemouth is just as important.

Hopewell continued: “Eyemouth is a small town and often can be forgotten about as it right in the south east of Scotland. We have a lot of different organisations here who are doing great work though.

“We have a local social enterprise ReTweed, which is based on textiles and mainly involves women. They have been making face masks. And the janitor at the high school has been using a 3D printer to make visors.

“At Splash, we are a community organisation and are assisting people in any way we can, but also pulling organisations together. The foodbank has saw an increase in need, and has been supported weekly donations of £500 of food from the local Morrison’s.

“Everybody has really embraced the challenge. The volunteers have played a key role, and the feedback we are getting from them as they are getting involved because the community means so much to them and they want to do their bit.”

Although the local community is responding as best as can to the crisis, it is felt that further support may be needed from outwith as the pandemic lengthens and lockdown restrictions are eased.

Hopewell said: “Going forward I think mental health issues within the community are going to be huge. Being stuck in the house isn’t good for your mental health, and I’d expect that when people have to go out into the world again we’ll see more issues.

“I think this is an area where local organisations might need help with, a lot of the groups that work on issues like this tend to be based a bit further away in Galashiels.”

Comments from those who have been supported

Covid-19: how a small community is rising to a massive challenge

“Unsung heroes doing a fantastic job for the community. Proud of what you’re all doing. Salute you all.”

“You’ve been more than helpful, it’s just amazing that they is someone like you that is there for the less fortunate. It’s not good being in this kind of situation, we have been in some dire times over the past seven years since I’ve been unable to work. So all the help is very much appreciated, and the community fridge has been a very good source at times.”

‘All these volunteers in our community are all looking after the vulnerable and needy above and beyond the call of duty. What wonderful folk they are.”