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Stories from lockdown: looking out for community heroes

Kevin Clark, worker at 3 Together, talks about how the partnership have prioritised their own well-being to be able to continue to help people in their community.

A wise man once told me that the first rule of life saving is to save yourself first. You can’t possibly save others from drowning if you’re being pulled under water too. The wise man was a lifeguard so his experience was very practical.

When COVID-19 was becoming a real and present threat to people everywhere and our communities were faced with lockdown, the partnership at 3 Together knew we had to ensure that those who help others were looked after.

Our community life savers, should be saved first.

You will all know the people I’m talking about, the ones who always volunteer, the ones who always say yes, the ones who put the needs of others before their own. These community pillars are often leaders in community groups, resident associations, churches and clubs.

They are gatekeepers to the wider community, connected to the many and yet so often forgotten about. They’ll be fine, they’re always fine.

At 3 Together Big Local we wanted to make sure that supporting the network of people, who support other people, was an intentional act and, that it was built into the fabric of our response to the COVID-19 crisis. We all know about the onset of mental health and well being issues, our own consultations have indicated a rise in our community and our plan includes a direct response to address these problems.

Before asking how our community was coping, we’re asking partnership members first and people that are working to support our community how they are coping.

How are you? Before how are we?

As we moved to Zoom (as it seems we all have now!) partnership meetings,  we also adjusted our agenda to include a well being check on our people. We very deliberately asked everyone ‘How are you? How are you really doing? Are you coping and staying healthy?, Is your family OK? Is your mental health OK?

We asked if we could help, in any way, big or small.

The results have been startling, we have felt like we are more connected than ever, not only in terms of our work but in feeling like we are together, common in our aims and in showing our vulnerability to each other we have gained further trust in one another.

We spread this health check wider to our organisational partners, speaking more often, being interested in  all the work they do, not just what they do with  3 Together Big Local. We asked difficult questions about finances, staff and the dangers of COVID-19 whether they could continue delivery in the long term.

Our financial health checks were intentional, how would our community fair if key partners couldn’t continue during COVID-19 and lockdown? Our conclusion was that our community would be better for everyone making it through – a conclusion which has driven some of our recent spending strategy.

They may not be wearing red shorts or a red swimsuit, they may not be there blowing their whistle or shouting instructions but I’m sure you know who your community life savers are.

Give it a go…how are you?

This blog is part of a series looking at how Big Local areas are supporting their community during COVID-19 and how different areas have responded to a particular challenge.