OK, it's my turn to write a Buddies Blog! Goodness me, where do I start and how do I fit in all my incredible memories of the last 15 months?
I am writing this on 22 June, exactly 15 months to the day that I set up Nantwich Buddies. "Set it up" sounds like I planned it, put careful thought into it and knew what I was doing. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Thinking back to those very early days of lockdown sometimes it seems like yesterday and sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago. I remember feeling very very anxious and just bursting into tears so many times in the first week. I remember my husband coming home from work and holding me really tight and neither of us knowing what to say. The only thing I could liken it to was when my dad suddenly died 17 years ago and the feelings of bewilderment, confusion and fear of the unknown came flooding back to me.
Not long after my dad's death, I turned to Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) to help me deal with my grief and emotions. NLP is a huge bag of tools to help in all areas of life from communication and positive mindset to goal setting and expelling limiting beliefs.
NLP has shaped my life and given me beliefs and strengths that I know have helped me deal with the pandemic.
In those early days of not knowing what was ahead, I allowed myself a few days, maybe a week, of feeling fearful and scared. I tend to "have a word with myself" (usually whilst walking the dog or mucking out my pygmy goats - yes, shovelling goat poo is a very good time to think!)
So, I had a word with myself, I accepted that the fancy relaunch of RedShift Radio as a podcast network wasn't going to happen, and that signing a new lease on our premises a week before lockdown was a tad hasty. I accepted that life was going to be very different for a while.
It was during this week of acceptance that I started to realise just how lucky I was. I had a lovely home, a flexible job, a happy husband and my fab pets that always made me laugh.
As I began hearing about the elderly needing to shield I was struck with the thought - what if my grandpa was still alive down in South Wales, all along in his house on a country lane? Who would shop for him? Who would check in on him?
It was at this point that Buddies was born.
Of course, we didn't have a name at this point (my friend and fellow Buddy Jo Grubb came up with that name a few months later). I set up a South Cheshire Covid Support group on Facebook and popped a message out asking if anyone would like to help with shopping and prescription collection. I also mentioned it to my Wyche-Malbank Rotary club and within four days we had an army of around 20 volunteers ready to take action.
That week, I spoke to a fabulous lady, who I nickname my Pocket Rocket because she is small, vibrant and full of colour and energy; Deb Lindop.
Deb has worked at Cheshire East Council all the time I have known her and has been a tremendous help and support to me and RedShift for 10 years.
Deb was leading on the Cheshire East Covid Response team "People Helping People" and we quickly arranged that she would pass to me any referrals of people needing our help from the Nantwich & Rural area.
Within the first month of lockdown, we were a team of 40 volunteers supporting over 60 households. At our peak, we were supporting 160 households a week and in 15 months we have welcomed over 130 volunteers and supported over 230 households. It’s incredible to think that the “value” to our community stacks up to a whopping £149k.
Being agile, flexible and open-minded has allowed us to respond and react quickly to requests for help. Instead of disbanding after the first lockdown as some pop-up support organisations did, we carried on and were awarded a grant by Cheshire East to employ our part-time volunteer coordinators Kedren and Sara.
A big project for us from January until just last week was supporting the rollout of the vaccine at the Nantwich Civic and two weeks of Covid testing at Reaseheath College. In total we had 51 volunteers supporting these activities and clocked up 2,200 hours of volunteer time.
As we move into our next chapter, we have lots to look forward to; we have recently set up a volunteer transport service in partnership with Wrenbury Together and the End of Life Partnership. We have also just found out that we are to be awarded a grant to launch the Happiness Hub (currently a podcast) as a physical face-to-face friendship and support group for anyone who may be feeling isolated, lonely or simply wanting to just make new friends.
There are so many positives that have come out of the pandemic, and so many of the Buddies have taken the time to tell me how beneficial volunteering and supporting others has helped them deal with lockdown.
I am so very proud of the Buddies, each and every one of them, who has stepped up, stepped out and served their community. Many of us have made new friends for life and long may our team continue to serve our Nantwich & Rural community.
Liz in her Nantwich Buddies High-Vis vest and leaflets in hand