Network as active as ever in community

January 10 2021
Network as active as ever in community

Simon Lawder, a volunteer with Wells Coronavirus Network, reflects on the past ten months and the continuing need for the network’s services

AS the old saying goes, that light at the end of the tunnel is a train coming the other way. That’s coronavirus for you.

There we were at Wells Coronavirus Network (WCN), with a community still nursing the bruises from banging their collective head against the wall, grateful for even a one-day Christmas reprieve, counting the days till it’s our turn for a vaccine and, guess what, we are told it’s happening all over again.

But come on, we said. It’s a new year. Life has to settle down soon. Well, has it or hasn’t it? Perhaps it would be best if the word ‘soon’ were officially removed from common usage.

On  the bright side, the over 80s have begun to receive their vaccinations. And WCN was privileged to supply all of the volunteer marshals at West Mendip Hospital, ensuring that everyone arrived, went directly to be vaccinated, had a short rest, and left safely.

When we Wells people look back over the past year, at least we can say we coped. Most of us, that is. We fell back on our legendary British ‘grit’, whatever that means, on our unquenchable ability to see the funny side.

Well, we did, didn’t we? We coped, the vaccines are on the way and, one of these days, we’re all going to be fine. We’ll meet again.

And yet, no more than a few minutes’ walk from where you and I live, there are hundreds of good people who, no matter how hard they try, couldn’t cope and still can’t. Who have struggled ever since the day when they were told to stay indoors, to shield, the day they lost their job, the day their already fragile mental health snapped, and went on snapping.

These people are real, very real, and it’s all happening, I repeat, just down the road.

• That’s why WCN came together, uniting the resources of all the local care organisations, statutory, voluntary and charitable, with an extraordinary army of volunteers, doing the ‘simple’ stuff to take the burden off the professionals.

• That’s why now WCN, in their advert on the opposite page, is appealing for donations to help them continue and expand their essential work in the months to come.

• That’s why around 350 fine Wells residents signed up as WCN volunteers, taking their turn to answer the helpline 01749 467079, getting people the help they need, responding at short notice, going out in the cold and taking support to a vulnerable person. Remember that figure, please – 350, all heroes, every man and woman. And they are out there again, now, as we speak.

• That’s why students from the Blue School have joined the team, and why Cathedral School youngsters wrote hundreds of letters to care home residents before Christmas.

• That’s why the Vineyard Foodbank has seen the number of Wells families applying for food parcels triple in recent months.

And remember, this is Wells, not some struggling post-industrial town, not what we used to call, so patronisingly, a third world country. This is Wells – the jewel of the West Country.

WCN is effectively a partnership, with the Foodbank, the Connect Centre, Mendip Health Connections, Project Factory, Wells Dementia Action Alliance, Citizen’s Advice and two dozen other organisations. The Wells care community, all in one place, at last.

Since March, WCN volunteers have brought support to around 500 local people. And that’s not counting those who are too proud to ask.

The pandemic created WCN. Ten months later, 350 people can pause for a moment, hold their heads up proudly, and carry on. Wells is a better place. Wells can, and must, now step forward, together. There’s a big task ahead of us.

Let’s do it! Wells. Please help, in your own way.

• Picture: Covid-19 vaccinations for the over-80s began at West Mendip Hospital in December. WCN volunteers Karen Deverell and Siobhan Goodwin are pictured helping out as marshals