Showcasing the incredible work of the voluntary sector in Sussex during pandemic
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Clockwise from top left: the team at Rye foodbank; food deliveries being assembled by volunteers for East Sussex County Council; British Gas, 4x4 Assist and Eastbourne First supporting Eastbourne Foodbank; VE Day celebrations with Selsey Mutual Aid, Sussex 4x4 Response ready to delivery vital supplies; Coastguard Rescue Teams who have been working throughout the pandemic (image taken pre-Covid-19).
As part of national Volunteers’ Week, Sussex’s voluntary organisations have been thanked for their incredible efforts in responding to the coronavirus crisis.
In an open letter to voluntary organisations and the wider community, Chair of the Sussex Resilience Forum (SRF) Neil Stocker has expressed his “huge appreciation for all of the hard work and inspiration that has gone into your efforts to support our communities since this crisis began.”
The forum, responsible for co-ordinating the work of public services including blue light responders and local authorities, is using Volunteers’ Week as a chance to showcase stories of voluntary work undertaken in response to Covid-19 across the county, and to encourage others to consider voluntary work within the community.
Martin Kelly, East Sussex County Council, who is responsible for volunteers within the SRF said: “From grassroots mutual aid groups in towns and villages, to Sussex-wide support for major logistical operations, the voluntary sector has stepped up to support our aims as an SRF in protecting the people of Sussex from harm.
“We have been pleased to use this opportunity to share some of these stories, and look forward to continuing to work with them as our communities make their first steps towards recovery. I hope the stories also inspire others to think about the wonderful impact voluntary work can have on local people and communities.”
Stories of voluntary groups at work include:
Selsey Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group
The residents of Selsey, West Sussex, came together during the pandemic, putting in place a remarkable range of support including
- A network of 140 vetted individuals offering support from a named buddy for every vulnerable resident
- Co-ordinated deliveries of food, medicines and other essential supplies, including to celebrate VE Day
- In person and phone welfare calls for those who could be isolated
- Fundraising by local charities to support those suffering financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.
Selsey residents continue to foster community support as lockdown restrictions ease, closely linking with West Sussex CC and local authority and health support. To find out more, visit the Selsey Covid-19 Mutual Aid Facebook page.
Brighton and Hove Community Works
Read volunteer stories of local heroes to Brighton and Hove, including video interviews.
Engineers from University of Sussex creating face shields for the NHS
A team of three engineers from the University of Sussex worked through the night in May to complete prototype face shields for NHS workers.
Sussex 4x4 Response
The team of volunteers at Sussex 4x4 Response have provided immense support to Sussex Resilience Forum logistics in delivering PPE and other vital items. In addition, they have tirelessly supported the NHS in delivering medical equipment.
Sussex Search and Rescue
Since 23 March, Sussex Search and Rescue have been deployed by Sussex Police (and assisting colleagues in Hampshire) on 14 occasions as well as committed many days of work delivering PPE for key workers:
- 25 members have supported this work.
- They have driven a total of 4,742 miles across Sussex making these deliveries.
- They have spent a cumulative 263 hours making these deliveries.
- So far (as of 29 May) they have delivered 720,736 items of PPE.
British Gas, 4x4 Assist Sussex and Eastbourne Borough Council
British Gas, 4X4 Assist Sussex and the council’s Neighbourhood First team supported Eastbourne Foodbank to distribute food parcels to people with severe financial difficulties during the Covid-19 crisis, with over 200 being delivered at the height of the crisis.
For more details about Eastbourne Foodbank visit eastbourne.foodbank.org.uk.
Haywards Heath Covid-19 Mutual Aid
“Haywards Heath Mutual Aid (HHMA) has been helping the neighbourhoods of Haywards Heath, Lindfield, Cuckfield and surrounding areas during this unprecedented coronavirus crisis with over 700 volunteers. It has been heart-warming to see these many registered to help, which made it possible to attend over 1,200 requests in just 10 weeks since 20 March. This milestone and any future milestones we achieve is all due to the amazing bunch of volunteers we have. In this volunteer week, we want to say a huge THANK YOU to each and every one of our volunteers. Thanks for taking the step to help others. Every volunteer who helped others during this crisis selflessly being in the frontline should be proud of what you are doing.”
Message on behalf of HHMA.
Free online mental health and wellbeing drop-ins
An Eastbourne community organisation, run predominantly by volunteers, has been offering free online sessions for parents and families who need help with their mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus lockdown. Holding Space supports parents, carers, children and families who are struggling with their mental health.
East Sussex Food Deliveries
Throughout the crisis, food deliveries have been delivered across Sussex to ensure those residents shielded at home for medical reasons or unable to get food for other reasons, had support throughout.
Sarah Hungerford, East Sussex County Council, said: “This project has affirmed my faith in humanity, it has been so lovely to see how many people have wanted to help and have enjoyed being part of such a vital operation.
Part of the packing team would usually be working in school kitchens for Chartwells who supply our school meals or in the canteen at East Sussex County Council’s HQ. We have been sending out 800-1,000 boxes per week and it is wonderful to hear how the essential items have helped the most vulnerable residents.
“Everyone who has been involved in this project has given 100% of their time and efforts, all this has been driven by the shared desire to ensure no one in the community goes without. Hopefully we can take the good out of this situation and be grateful to have such a loving community in East Sussex.”
National Emergencies Trust donations to support Sussex services
The National Emergencies Trust has given multiple donations to services in Sussex including:
- East Sussex Association of Blind and Partially Sighted People (ESAB) based in Hailsham to support some of their most vulnerable members.
- Hastings Advice & Representation Centre (HARC) funding to continue offering free and confidential welfare benefits advice, information and representation service to residents across Hastings and Rother.
- Rye Food Bank donation to help them continue to feed over 150 people within a week.
Coastguard Rescue Teams
Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, Coastguard Rescue Teams have continued to provide crucial services on the Sussex coastline. As well as supporting Sussex Police on mutual aid patrols, their expert volunteer teams have provided 100s of hours of emergency response alongside working from home, family and other commitments. Last Sunday saw a 168% increase on the May 2019 average with 241 incidents across the UK making it the busiest day of the year so far.
Volunteers working in Crawley - #loveyourneighbour
Crawley launched the #Loveyourneighbour campaign at the beginning of April and since then over 90 volunteers from local churches have been serving their local community in many ways.
Liz, who co-ordinates this work, said: “We have felt it to be a time of blessing not only for those receiving but for those giving too. We are helping the local food bank deliver food parcels, delivering prescriptions for pharmacies and individuals, doing regular shopping for those unable to get out and being phone friends to those feeling isolated, many of whom are looking forward to meeting after lockdown! On top of this we have started regularly making sandwiches for the homeless, 1200 so far, and cooked and delivered hot meals to the local young people’s YMCA.”
Betty, a lady in her 80s, said: “We’re ever so pleased and grateful, you’re doing such a good job!”
To find out more about opportunities for volunteering to support your community, visit your local authority website or click on the links above.