Across the UK people have been coming together to help those most in need during the lockdown.
Eugene Petzer who co-founded the mutual aid group Isolation Help Bexley tells Sky News the lockdown has unintentionally created a new sense of community in his borough.
Isolation Help Bexley was set up in March, to help vulnerable people in Bexley during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The idea was to make sure people self-isolating didn’t feel isolated.
We initially thought it would just be a few neighbours helping a few neighbours, but since then it’s snowballed.
When someone requests help via our website, by email or phone, we get in touch with them and clarify exactly what they need.
Then whatever their request is – maybe they need shopping, maybe they need a prescription collecting – it goes to different volunteers depending on what they are able to do.
We’ve got a map and our own little help desk which manages all of these calls and makes sure that the requests go to the right people.
At the heart of it, it is still neighbours helping neighbours.
We’ve just established a team that deals with the logistics part of it, to make sure that people get help from someone nearby.
The response has been overwhelming. We still get people registering to volunteer every day, who just want to help.
Usually our daily lives are so disconnected and we all have our own little rituals, going out shopping, going out eating, meeting friends who live somewhere else.
There’s normally none of this talking over the garden fence or visiting the neighbours down the road or two blocks over.
The lockdown has brought people together. It’s formed new friendships.
I’ve lived in my current house for five years and have maybe been next door three or four times and the neighbours on the other side have been there maybe once or twice to collect packages.
But since the lockdown happened, people go out. We clap for carers on a Thursday. We stand out and have a chat and just talk about stuff.
My next door neighbour and I text each other now, to make sure we get out of the house. I go outside for coffee every day and we talk.
Because of Isolation Help Bexley I’ve met and worked with people who under normal circumstances I’d probably never have met and I’ll definitely stay friends with them when this is all over.
I think that’s going to happen among the volunteers and the people in need as well.
We started a general chat group in WhatsApp for volunteers so they can talk to each other directly.
They’ve set each other baking challenges. They share pictures of their efforts. They share ideas and stories.
It’s not why we started the group initially but people have just naturally used the network to stay in touch with each other and communicate.
The situation has forced people together and as they get to know their neighbours, I think they’ll start lasting friendships.
How lockdown has given us more time for life's simple pleasures
Through setting up the group we’ve also discovered cases of pre-existing neglect around the borough, which have been incredibly sad.
But the lockdown has brought those cases to light, so now those people are starting to get help and being befriended in ways they wouldn’t have been before.
What we all would love to see when the current situation ends is that the work we are doing continues – either in an informal capacity, where people just keep helping each other, or in a more formal capacity.
Maybe we can augment the services that are offered by the local council, befriending our neighbours and making sure people are not isolated and lonely.
One of our founders said originally that she doesn’t just want this scheme to last for lockdown, she wants to make sure that come Christmas we can do the same thing.
Whenever people find things difficult we want there to be a core community support group that they can reach out to, with a volunteer base they can tap into, to help with the loneliness and isolation.
That’s the one thing I would most love to see come out of this situation, that the work done by this awesome group of people continues and that we keep lifting each other up and forming stronger communities.