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S11 Mutual Aid: Going from strength to strength

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Unsplash: Benjamin Elliott

Residents in and around South West Sheffield have formed the S11 COVID-19 Mutual Aid Group to support the most vulnerable and isolated people in the area during the outbreak.

Starting with a few people leafleting their streets to offer help to their neighbours, S11 COVID-19 now has five neighbourhood groups with a total membership of just under 2,000 people.

Selina Chilton, who helped set up the Mutual Aid group for Nether Green, says that most streets are using WhatsApp to keep in touch with their neighbours.

"It's important that, whilst having to be physically distanced, our community still feels connected socially," Chilton said. "So far we have done a variety of emergency grocery shopping trips for community members who are self isolating."

I can connect people to neighbours to help in a practical, manageable way

In Banner Cross and Greystones 800 residents are connecting through the Facebook page to help each other, with most streets in the community having their own self-organising group.

Organiser Sophie Kubbnuts has parents and relatives who live far away and cannot help them directly, so she helped to set up a neighbourhood group.

"I can connect people to neighbours to help in a practical, manageable way," she said. "We had a lady reach out as part of her contingency plan for an elderly aunt who wasn't on social media. She was invited to a WhatsApp group with the aunt's neighbours and now has a plan to keep her aunt supplied, without travelling and without having to use over-stretched council or volunteer services."

Mutual Aid groups are now reaching out to each other across the country and many with relatives far away are contacting local Mutual Aid groups to ensure someone is looking out for their loved ones. This may be practical help with shopping or fetching prescriptions, or just a friendly wave at the window.

Volunteer Lewis Skinner said, "I was invited to a local Mutual Aid group on Facebook, and my wife and I leafleted our street to offer help. When I realised there wasn't a specific group covering Bannerdale and Carterknowle, and knowing there are a number of elderly people there, I set one up."

Bents Green organiser, Jane Thomas, who helped set up S11 COVID-19 Mutual Aid group, said, "We know that we all have to step up to the plate to help each other now. The community response has been fantastic and if any good comes out of this it will be stronger and more resilient communities in the future.

"Our focus is providing information, practical advice and connecting people to their nearest local groups, willing volunteers and those in need. We are signposting to local Council services and appropriate agencies to provide the specialist help and support."

For further details, contact Jane Thomas on [email protected].

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Unsplash: Benjamin Elliott
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