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Inspiring Stories About Spreading Community Kindness and Connection, not COVID-19, Fear and Social Disconnection

While the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many ugly and selfish acts over the last few weeks, it is exciting to see the amazing acts of kindness, generosity and social connection being displayed at the community level. 
 
Below is the start of an ongoing compilation of great stories that community builders have initiated. Thanks to so many friends across our connected world who have generously shared these actions.
 
As an introduction to some of these actions, the newspaper article What is needed most is not toilet paper; it's a sense of community’ is worth reading. 

Here are some of those amazing stories from across the globe...

Cheers

Peter Kenyon
Bank of I.D.E.A.S.

www.bankofideas.com.au
Bank of I.D.E.A.S. Facebook Page
 

Chris Nicholas, Perth, Western Australia  – ‘Adopt a Health Care Worker’ Scheme 


Concerned about health workers who might burn out without support at home, Chris created a Facebook site and called for volunteers to help with simple tasks like shopping, caring for kids etc.  Within four days, 11,500 had signed up to support health workers and the elderly. Click here to check out ABC article.
(Photo courtesy ABC News and Chris Nicholas)

 

John Carey, MLA for Perth, Western Australia –‘Support the Elderly’ Scheme


Concerned about the elderly and the vulnerable self-isolating without community support, John set up a volunteer scheme and 1000 people have volunteered. He and his office are coordinating the volunteer effort to assist the elderly in his Perth electorate: Mt Hawthorn, North Perth, Perth, East Perth, West Perth, Leederville, and Highgate. His office called all seniors over 75 in his electorate to check if they needed assistance. Volunteers are asked to provide this help. All tasks are done without physical contact and while implementing the principles of social distancing (phone calls, leaving groceries on the verandah). Click here to read more. John has also started a 'Make Kindness the Norm' Campaign. 
(Photos courtesy: The Perth Voice Interactive and John Carey Facebook Page)
“I am feeling deeply right now for so many small businesses in our local community. As we see people rush to the major supermarkets and chemists, let's also take time to drop by a local small business. Buy those extra baked goods from a local bakery, pick up some flowers for a loved one, or a cute print or homeware you've been eyeing off. It doesn't have to be big, but it all counts.”
(John Carey)

Zak Kirkup, MP for Dawesville


Zak Kirkup in Western Australia, has initiated a similar Volunteer Coordination Scheme with a team of volunteers. Explore more. Zak is also calling all residents in the electorate over 65 to check in and make sure they are ok and prepared. 
 

Darling Range Seniors Hub, Kalamunda, Western Australia – ‘Neighbour Connect’ Program


An initiative in the City of Kalamunda to help connect those people self-isolating with limited social networks with those who could help with simple tasks like grocery delivery, social chat, taking the dog for a walk.  Explore more
(Flyer Pictured)
                        
The Seniors Hub has also developed a set of Guidelines for Volunteers click here to download from their website.
 
The next stage of their response involves - 
  • Mobilisation of volunteers who can help Seniors with telephone and on-line mentoring in areas like using technology social connectors, dealing with insolvency etc;
  • Distribution of ‘Neighbour Connection’ postcards; and
  • Promotion of positive community stories and ideas to keep socially connecting with others like the wonderful ‘driveway’ drinks idea (flyer image courtesy Lee Graf to the Connection Now Facebook page).

People Making the Best out of Social Distancing by Holding Neighbourhood Happy Hours


Click here to see pictures of some of the creative ways people around the world are connecting while observing social distancing rules. 
(Photo courtesy Mum's Lounge)

Befriend Inc. Western Australia


Befriend is a community building organisation that exists to nurture inclusive, connected communities. Befriend’s team of community builders and consultants are regenerating community connectedness through the power of citizen-led action, inspiring people to take action to nurture connection in their neighbourhoods, communities and workplaces. At a time when our needs for social connection have never been greater, Befriend are mobilising community members to run online social groups, coordinate local phone trees and letter-writing networks and support local neighbourhood action, harnessing the abundance of goodwill into the power of collective action to ensure that no one has to ride this storm out alone, and that our communities bounce back even more connected than before.

The team have also established an online Facebook Group 'Connection Now,' to bring people together in an online space to share opportunities for social experiences, ideas, initiatives and invitations – an amazing source of inspiration. Check it out for so many wonderful ideas like the Befriend Digital Book Club; Mindfulness Gatherings; ‘25 best video games to help you socialise will self-isolating’; Cheese, Wine and Conversation Card evenings;  recipe sharing, creative free tutorials, ‘I spent a year in space, and I have tips on isolation to share’ article.

My favourite was related to Olivia Grace Williamson (pictured below) who turned five last week Friday,  but with coronavirus social distancing precautions in place, she could not  have a birthday party with her friends or celebrate with her classmates at school. So her Mother organised a drive-by birthday parade!!

City of Fremantle, Western Australia- ‘Neighbour to Neighbour’ Initiative


The Fremantle community is a connected and proactive one who want to do more than sit back and await direction. The City’s 'Neighbour to Neighbour' project aims to provide a  connection between those wanting to help and those at high risk of being impacted by the threats of COVID-19, including seniors, people with a disability, people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and Indigenous people.  

It involves local residents over 18 willing to volunteer to help vulnerable people in the community with simple errands, including grocery shopping, dog walking, posting mail or simply checking in with a friendly phone call. Younger people can also volunteer but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Covid19 Mutual Aid Solidarity Networks


Local mutual support groups across the globe using a Facebook/Instagram account where “regular folks, especially folks of colour, immigrants, people with disabilities…” can share stories, information and tools and find community…”  The pages are sharing stories about illness, stigma, and navigating self isolation, community support and more. 
 
In the words of one local Coordinator, Anna Vickerstaff - “No matter what we look like, where we live, or how much money we have, getting sick reminds us that at our core we’re all just human…And in every country it’s the old, the sick and those already struggling who will be affected worse. That’s why we set this network up – because we want to make sure that no one in our communities is being left to face this crisis alone, and because we want to try and redress some of the serious inequalities this outbreak will expose.”
 
The UK groups are being linked nationally by
 Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK

The Covid-19 Mutual Aid Seattle Facebook page is also worth checking out.

The Caremongering Movement


This is a spin off of the mutual aid groups noted above that have been sweeping through Canada in the last few weeks. Explore more

The Caremongering group in the small Nova Scotian town of Antigonish Guysborough was set up one mid-morning and by late afternoon there were close to 600 members with residents offering to help neighbours and strangers alike with errands or anything else they need. Explore more

Jonny Blue, Encinitas, USA


In response to people hoarding toilet paper, Jonny took a cardboard sign bearing the simple request — “Share your toilet paper” — and camped out on a major intersection. The response was immediate and positive, with motorists honking horns in support. Drivers stopped to drop off rolls of toilet paper and, just as quickly, he would hand them over to people in need. Explore more
(Photo Courtesy the San Diego Union-Tribune)

Becky Wass, UK University lecturer and her ViralKindness Postcard


This postcard was designed to help those who are staying away from others. The postcard has different categories of assistance that people might need help with, including mail, a friendly phone call and picking up shopping. It has the hashtag #viralKindness.

The Postcard has also inspired the GetUp team to instigate #ViralKindness in Australia. This is another version of an electronic space to connect people who need support with the people who can provide it – in their community. The movement provides access to existing groups, as well as the link to create your own.
 
Steps to create a group are very simple:
  1. Start a private group on Facebook, or a Messenger or Whatsapp thread to communicate with each other.
  2. Add your group to the #ViralKindness hub.
  3. Drop community care postcards in letter boxes around your neighbourhood.
  4. Work with others to help people in your area. That's it!
Explore more 

Click here to read an article from The Guardian about the #ViralKindness cards and stories of other postivie actions to provide support. 

We also love the postcard of Julia Suh that she and two neighbours are delivering in her local neighbourhood (pictured below).

 

Jim Diers, Neighbor Power, Seattle - Blog


Jim has shared messages about the importance of social connection and finding creative ways to connect when we are being advised to social distance from people. His theme is clean hands and open hearts. Click here to read his latest blog.
Pictured above is a sign from his Island of Vashon, Seattle that illustrates some alternative ways to greet people.

 

Local Distillers in North America and UK


Given the panic buying and lock of hand sanitiser, some distilleries are taking matters into their own hands and making hand sanitiser using the alcohol they produce and giving it away to the communities they are a part of. Click here to view a comprehensive list from Forbes Magazine of such distilleries and their specific actions.

Click here to read the story of one distillery's actions in Nova Scotia.

The Town of Kulin, Western Australia - ‘Kulin Delivers’ Initiative

Local resident, Erin Bailey has initiated ‘Kulin Delivers’,  a network of people who are prepared to drive and deliver goods to community members who are not able to collect their orders from Kulin businesses. Physical contact with business employees or the home person is not necessary – volunteers simply pick up the order from outside the store and deliver to the home and leave at an outside location.  Click here for more details, including the simple registration form.

Kulin have also shared some simple advice statement about kindness (pictured above). 

Helping Hands & Neighbours,  Mandurah, Western Australia

This is simply a Facebook page created by local resident Deb Maybury enabling other local residents to help others connect with each other and cultivate random acts of kindness.

For example ran out of pantry items and need help just ask on this page...Or in turn mention items you have too much and can give. 

Love their set of simple RULES:
Any posts not relating to the nature of the page will be instantly removed. 
Please no posts of news updates, hearsay, negativity, scaremongering or
unkindness.
Heaps of random acts of kindness, helping & supporting each other. 
Help each other through this pandemic crisis.

Click here to view their Facebook page.
 

Italians singing from their balconies

The world was inspired by Italians in local neighbourhoods consoling each other with song, some patriotic, others pop favourites, from their balconies. Many of these scenes have have been posted as videos on Twitter across the country and globe.  Click here to see an article from Harpers Bazaar that captures many of these inspiring videos.

Advocare - Pen Pals for Older People

Advocare are assembling a team of a volunteer pen pals to write to older people living in residential aged care facilities. Their volunteer team supports the volunteer pen pal and provides them with information about the person they are writing to. For more information, email volunteer@advocare.org.au


Perth Urban Runners (PUR) and PURONA

PUR regular group runs have been suspended due to COVID-19.  So, they have instigated PURONA, a virtual run with three simple instructions - 
  • Go for a run on Tuesdays or Thursdays.
  • On your run take a selfie or a video.
  • Post on Instagram and Facebook and tag PUR. 
Click here to view their Facebook page. 

TED

The TED team have responded with a wealth of ways to connect through their talks and tools. Their TED Circles – an on-line platform of small volunteer-led groups is worth looking at. Click here for a summary of all their resources and approaches.


Jeder ‘Stay Connected ‘Card with your community


The Jeder group produced a great postcard of simple advice about maintaining connection in the community.

Calangute Community Emergency Response Team to Corona Virus (Covid-19)

This initiative from Calangute Goa is calling all residents and those with businesses to donate their time, resources, services and skills to help fellow villagers, government agencies and stranded tourists. Explore more
”The only thing that will redeem mankind is co-operation.” (Bertrand Russell).

The Couch Choir Movement

Based on the popular Pub Choir Movement initiated in 2017, Pub Choir Event Director, Astrid Jorgensen has initiated this great social connecting initiative. To see it in action, click here to check out this ABC article. Prepare to shed a few tears of joy as you watch the 1000+ voices combining in the singing of ‘Long to be Close to You’  click here to view. 

Victory Gardens


Many communities are promoting and reviving the concept of Victory Gardens - in backyards, in community gardens, on vacant lots. During World War II, Victory Gardens provided the impetus for local and cooperative vegetable growing and sharing. Click here to read an article from The Guardian.

Balingup (Western Australia) - Face Mask Templates


The town of Balingup has a reputation as a ‘can-do’ resilient community. One of their neat responses is to distribute a simple template to making a mask. There are plenty available to download online.
 

Twinkly White Lights 

Many communities are encouraging residents to put twinkly white lights, or anything similar in their windows as beacons of hope and light, and as symbolic reminders of connection and unity. The purpose is to remind ourselves that we are a connected and truly interdependent world; that we are standing together, and we are caring deeply about/for each other.

Two Invaluable sites to keep connected to for inspiration, ideas and tools

Spreading of Good Community Building Advice through all communication mediums.
Key messages include

  • Do not engage in panic buying and hoarding. Be generous and think of others.  
  • Check on elderly neighbours and ask how you can help. Elderly are most at risk from this virus. It is possible to drop supplies at their door without having an encounter.
  • Make a list of people you are concerned about during social isolation and make a plan to regularly contact them - telephone, email, visit and knock on their door (speaking from a distance of two metres and use social media like WhatsApp, Next door, FaceTime, Google Hangouts and Zoom. Develop a telephone tree system).
  • If you don't want to eat in a restaurant, call and ask if you can book take-away. Some local restaurants are offering to bring takeaway orders to your car.
  • Do not forget about local businesses. We need to support local businesses if we want them to survive. It is very easy to online order.
  • Express appreciation for those in stressful roles at present - health workers, supermarket workers etc., and seek ways to practically support those losing employment or income at the present time.

Acknowledgement
Thank you to so many friends, co-community builders and organisations for the sources of inspiration and ideas above.  

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