This interview was done by Ruth of The Derwent Diary. The Derwent Diary a quarterly community newsletter for the Derwent area of Chaddesden.
How did you get involved as a Good Neighbour?
First, I’m based at St Philips (Chaddesden). When we first went into lockdown, I prioritised helping out with our congregation and some of the elderly people in the area. Through that I then found out about the Good Neighbour scheme and applied for do that. I’d got a car, so I started answering volunteer requests.
And how many people have you supported?
I don’t really know, because very quickly what happened was one of the calls was to collect food from the central hub to deliver to Aspire. I found myself with a car packed to the roof with cans and cartons which I took to Aspire, and lo and behold next week there was the same message. Later on in the day, there were some calls to deliver parcels, so I started delivering parcels. At that point I think I’d found my new spiritual home.
I have met some amazing people. A lot of the volunteers give up so much time, and they’re so committed. And also a lot of the families that we deliver to, it’s been quite nice to develop a bit of a relationship and check that they’re OK, especially when they’ve got children, or if they're older people on their own. I don’t know how many people they see each week.
Do you know anything about the people you were supporting, like their situations?
It’s good to meet people in situations I might not normally come across, to empathise with what they’re having to manage in their daily lives. You hear on television about schools and school food. Aspire has been asked to provide breakfast for two local schools. It’s good to know we’re able to help with that. It’s also sad to think we have to, that something’s not quite right with the system. That’s made me a bit more aware of some of the difficulties.
Do you think anything good has come out of Covid? For example, do you think it has brought communities closer together?
I think on a local level, it probably has. When I look at the way my neighbours have responded to each other, that has been quite positive. I think perhaps the difficulties that many families have faced has made people more aware of the inequalities that are in our society. Whether it will last, I don’t know.
I think a lot of people got so involved with their gardens last year, got a lot out of it, and the sense of achievement that came with it. You might only have a few pots, but there’s a huge sense of achievement. Hopefully a bit of that will stay – that ‘can do’ attitude and 'we can do it'.
And overall, what type of impact do you think that the Good Neighbours have had on the community?
Well in terms of the food deliveries, I find that the majority of people are extremely grateful for what they get and see it as helpful in sustaining them through difficulties. A number of them will say that – when they can – they have every intention of supporting food banks and suchlike themselves. It has helped to protect the elderly and vulnerable to stay in their own homes.
Hopefully, it has made a local difference. And perhaps it has kept the illness rate down from what it easily could have been. And there are so many people who volunteer in other ways, not necessarily on the scheme but doing neighbour’s shopping. I think there are a lot of people who have enjoyed being helpful and useful.
Early on I offered to phone up and, to be honest, I’m rubbish at that. There are other people I know who are amazing at that. I think for some of the older people who are lonely, befriending someone else in same situation might be the way to go. We’ve got to find our own niche as a volunteer, find out what suits us – otherwise, it becomes an imposition and you don’t really do it as well.
Some nights I flop on the sofa and think, 'I can’t go to bed; its only half past 6!' I get up in the morning and it’s like I’m off to work, and that’s great. Since fist lockdown really I’ve worked there 4 days a week, all day, every day. It’s not so fun in sleeting rain, but on the whole it has been fun. I’m sure I’ve made some different friends. I hope that continues. There’s a lot to be said for volunteering. It’s incredibly rewarding.
To find out more about Aspire or support their valuable work please see their Facebook and their Local Giving pages.