Buxton Street by Street - a community voluntary response to the pandemic by Anna Watson
On the evening of 16 March 2020, I set up a Facebook page called 'Buxton Street by Street Covid-19 Support'. I did this as I knew that as a band 5, I would not be assigned to a specific workstream in my school health role and so my opportunity to make a difference would be lessened compared to my experience of the past 13 years in the job.
My intention was to create a network of neighbours in each ward who could be on hand to help anyone in need during the initial lockdown. In a matter of days, I was joined by two others (Claire and Caitlin) to help manage the rapidly growing whole-community movement, using the National Viral Kindness fliers. By then we had 200+ volunteers, and by mid to late May all of the 307 residential streets in Buxton had at least one volunteer whose number was available should it be needed. As well as the coming together of neighbours who had previously been strangers, we worked towards ensuring supermarket surplus food was delivered to those impacted by the lockdown, offered telephone befriending to very isolated usually older residents, had volunteers undertaking shopping duties and other errands and helpers to walk dogs! This was just the start of the milestones...
By the summer;
- Delivered hundreds of emergency food parcels through a highly organised surplus food collection, packaging and volunteer driver scheme.
- Supplied an easter egg to every primary school child in Buxton
- Gained 2,500 Facebook members
- Been approached by a local established community support organisation, CONNEX with a partnership offer, due to the incredible success Buxton Street by Street had had with mobilising the entire community to work together to support those less fortunate. This was done with the support of its CEO Gill Geddes and trustees.
By the autumn we had;
- Awarded to us a £35,000 National Lottery community fund grant to ensure our work could continue and we could build on the continuing strengths of our response. This was achieved with the support of Debbie Hackett from CONNEX.
- Built a website, referral system, formal volunteer enrolment process
- An interview with BBC Radio Derby
- Appeared on the front page of the local paper
- Nominated for the High Peak Heroes award.
- Our funding from the National Lottery has been extended until next spring
- We received a letter of recognition from the Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire
- We have been selected as recipients for the Beacon of Hope Award
- Referred to as an "example of best practice" by the CEO of High Peak CVS.
We continue to support neighbours, although many of our volunteers have needed to step back from the initial crisis-response mode due to their changing work commitments as the country opens up for business again.
We have helped to set up and facilitated other community initiatives such as;
- A Christmas hamper and gift scheme
- Home-made PPE 'scrub hub'
- A baby bank which supplies equipment for new parents and their babies
- An emergency financial hardship support organisation called the Breadline.
- We have supported the Covid-19 vaccination volunteer marshal initiative, with many of our volunteers signing up to cover community hub vaccine clinics. The volunteer who took on the role of coordinating this, has since been personally awarded the Beacon of Hope accolade also!
My role within DCHS since TUPE in 2015 and prior to that, within Chesterfield Royal Hospital from 2007, gave me the experience, knowledge and skills to enable me to formulate a clear picture of what was needed for my community, the links around me and team working skills to be able to achieve it and the ability to grow it into a professional and sustainable service which has adapted to changing needs and volunteer availability.
Our 'restoration and recovery' phase includes a one-day festival in Buxton to mark World Mental Health Day in October, the catalyst of which was the tragic suicide of a 17-year old local young person, for reasons his parents attribute to the impact of the pandemic. As a child health nurse within the school health team, I have witnessed first-hand along with my colleagues and partner organisations the increased numbers of young people requiring emotional wellbeing support as they navigate the effects to their education, social relationships and future employment prospects. Many have also lost relatives to Covid.
You can see our volunteer celebration films, read more about our story and hear a 1-year anniversary song written by a local band and dedicated to the amazing Buxton Street by Street volunteers on our website www.buxtonstreetbystreet.co.uk
Thank you for reading,
Anna, Claire and Caitlin