Communities everywhere are going above and beyond to help each other out and make things as good as they can be. Early March, before all this kicked off, feels like a lifetime ago but it really is amazing to see what local groups and volunteers have managed to achieve in such a short and challenging period of time.
At Galson Estate it began with some forms to ask for volunteers and find out who needed help and has grown into a team of volunteers, a WhatsApp group for every village, collection and delivery services and even a YouTube channel with an exercise class, bedtime stories and bookbug sessions. It’s just brilliant and you can read more of the detail below from Lisa of Galson Estate Trust:
We were really fortunate as I think we managed to mobilise the community pretty promptly. Over 2 weeks ago I heard the first minister on the radio on my way into work and she mentioned “WhatsApp Trees”, so basically groups for folk who live on the same street etc. I thought it might be good to do this for the estate for every village (taking account of those who don’t have WhatsApp by recording a phone number). The idea was to account for every single household in a bid to foster a way of allowing people to help each other, so a mutual support as opposed to setting up a helpline and then having to match volunteers or becoming so swamped we could help no one properly.
So far the groups are working really well. It’s been a mammoth task, but we are just about there, and we see neighbours offering to do shopping, take in bins and even just saying “morning, how are you all today”.
We set up a private Facebook group to support those collecting numbers and to establish a volunteer group and this is also working well and helps us react and respond quickly to any gaps that might appear in services and support in the area.
We redeployed a member of staff who was keen to have tasks to become a delivery driver. The local car hire company were offering vans free of charge, so we quickly got insurance in place and decided to offer to do collections from Stornoway, from the local crofting co-operative, Lewis Crofters. The co-operative could no longer offer deliveries as they needed all staff to enable them to operate safely by running a drive thru operation, with telephone orders, so we thought to save crofters from the estate all driving to Stornoway and to support those who couldn’t do that due to self-isolating or whatever the reason might be. We now run this three days per week and have three drop off areas (large car parks at community buildings) across the estate. This is hopefully a good support ahead of lambing season.
We are delivering prescriptions from two surgeries across the estate 5 days per week. Volunteer drivers are carrying this out on a rota basis, and this too is working well as people can’t get out to collect prescriptions.
We have also set aside time for analysis and review of the various schemes of support and are proactively supporting organisations on the estate to work through what might be available to them.
We have also put volunteer support into one local shop to support it to stay open as it was essential for items, such as fuel and gas.
We are offering Gaelic and English Bookbug sessions on our newly created YouTube channel three times per week and today we launched a Gentle Movement class online and this will run every Thursday.
Our next piece of work is around the community newspaper, which can no longer keep running, so we propose to work in partnership with volunteers to deliver a free community newsletter to ensure information and news is still reaching the community. We realise that not everyone is online and we have to try our best to keep people connected to someone else.
We will continue to assess the gaps and try to do what we can to ensure the community are supported and feel secure during what is such a difficult and perplexing time.
The estate is obviously community owned and what better way to celebrate land ownership that to ensure the benefits from the asset support the community during the good times and the bad.