Battersea Coronavirus Angels – FINAL update (27Aug20)

Canon Simon Butler, Vicar of St Mary’s Battersea (and a trustee of KLS), is writing a weekly e-news to the Coronavirus Angels volunteers. As we’re a partner in this venture we thought we should reproduce it here as it’s full of interesting and relevant stuff!

Welcome to our FINAL Angels newsletter – at least for the time being! As of next Tuesday (1st Sept) we will be ceasing to operate the practical help side of our work, while remaining open for business on telephone befriending. Of course, even though we all hope not to see a second spike or local lockdown, we will remain ‘mothballed’ rather than closed, so that we can get up and running again with the sort of practical response that has made Coronavirus Angels so successful.

Thank You
We say thank you very easily, but this thank you comes with some very clear outcomes. Thank you for the 530 separate pieces of work we have done – not counting the regular pharmacy runs, the ‘informal’ errands that have arisen out of ongoing relationships and friendships made, and the many phone calls through telephone befriending.

Thank you for the varied ways in which this has made a difference – to the isolated gentleman who had longed to hear a human voice in his life; to the family with no income while their breadwinner was in hospital with Coronavirus; to the many who were wondering where they could turn to for help; and who received from us help with shopping, some friendly advice, a Foodbank voucher or a referral on to a professional body. These are just the tip of the iceberg. Every single errand we have run has made a difference to someone.

A special thank you as well goes to those people who volunteered and yet whom we never called. We value the fact that we had strength-in-depth in terms of numbers of offers of help and we regret that we weren’t able to call on you. We will keep a note of who we haven’t yet involved – it wasn’t personal! – and, should we have to return, we will do our best to call on you as a priority.

A Thank You Party
We want to celebrate the work of Coronavirus Angels and to thank you in a tangible way.  And what better way than a (socially-distanced) party. We warmly invite you to join us for a Coronavirus Angels Celebration on Tuesday 29 September in St Mary’s Churchyard from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. We will have live jazz – a brass quintet of professional musicians who have offered their talent – and there will be food and drink available. The event will be free to volunteers: all we ask is that you register for the event to help us with the catering. You can do that by registering on our Eventbrite page (Click HERE): please do this by Friday 25 September. We look forward to seeing you there. You are all welcome.

What Have We Learned?
As Coronavirus Angels has developed over the past few months, we have been alert to what we have been learning through our work. Here are a few thoughts:

  • We have gained local knowledge– we live in a diverse community and some of us will have met people from different backgrounds than we might otherwise meet. We’ve also found out more about the very different lives people live in our neighbourhood.
  • We have developed an increased sense of belonging. We have – to coin a phrase(!) “all been in this together” – and the pandemic has taught us something about our interdependence one with another. We hope you will find ways of allowing that to remain part of your awareness.
  • We have learned about the generosity of people– whether it’s the unexpected donation of money or the offer of a considerable amount of time or professional skill, or even if it’s the way in which someone we have helped has wanted to do something in return, generosity has been very much to the fore. We often think of our society as selfish – this has provided a healthy corrective to that.
  • We have grown in awareness of just how vulnerable some of our neighbours are. There are plenty of people with extremely limited resources, many with mental health struggles that affect their ability to live well, and far too many who live precarious or isolated lives, for whom the pandemic has pushed them beyond their ability to manage. The solutions to these challenges are complex – they involve individual choice, political decisions and community spirit. We cannot simply move on from the pandemic without remembering and prioritising the needs of the most vulnerable.

Volunteering Opportunities
Given these ongoing needs and challenges in our society, we wanted to point you to other groups working locally which could offer an outlet for your sense of service and voluntary spirit. Here are some of the available opportunities:

  • Telephone Befriending through Coronavirus Angels: we will continue to run the telephone befriending service until the end of the year at least. If you would like to volunteer for this, please email [email protected] after 1st September.
  • Katherine Low Settlement:a multi-purpose community centre in Battersea High Street. Plenty of volunteering opportunities, these include Love to Learn (working with refugee and newly-arrived children), an Elders Programme and ESOL Classes.
  • Battersea Communities: building community for the common good, currently focusing on a campaign to get community space on the Surrey Lane Estate.
  • Kambala Estate Residents Association: an estate with considerable numbers of low income and vulnerable people.
  • Floating Winter Night Shelter: run by the excellent Glass Door Charity, last winter St Mary’s, Sacred Heart & KLS hosted a Saturday evening place to eat and sleep to a group of homeless guests last year. We’re still awaiting confirmation of arrangements for this winter, owing to Covid-19 restrictions, but contact St Mary’s or Sacred Heart for further information. It’s a vital, live-saving and rewarding opportunity.
  • Dons Local Action Groupthis voluntary group did a wonderful service of providing additional food parcels during lockdown. They continue to run.

Practicalities After 1st September

  • The Angels email address and the regular mobile telephone number will not be monitored regularly. If you need to contact someone from the Angels, please contact St Mary’s Church, Sacred Heart Church or Katherine Low Settlement directly. If you cannot reach anyone easily, email [email protected] for an urgent response.
  • If you have helped someone ‘informally’ (i.e. we asked you to help once and it’s sort of continued regularly without further contact with the Angels team) and you now find you are no longer in a position to do so, please contact us urgently, so we can see if we can help or signpost the person you are helping elsewhere.
  • If you have any expenses to claim from shopping trips or other help that you’ve paid for an need reimbursement for, please email them to [email protected] by 30th September and he will arrange for repayment.
  • We will still be able to issue Foodbank Vouchers if you hear of someone in need. Contact KLS or St Mary’s directly.
  • GDPR: We have agreed a data retention policy that will see us hold your personal information up to the end of April 2021. This is to enable us to contact you should we need to restart the practical service. If you would like to be removed from the database, please contact [email protected]
  • The three institutions (KLS, Sacred Heart, St Mary’s) will continue to meet regularly to review the situation. If the need arises, we intend to pick up the Angels practical work quickly.
  • If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to be in touch in the next few days.

Finally, a big thank you to the core team of organisers and telephone coordinators who have carried the weight of the work over the past few months. They are a wonderful group of people from across the area and it has been great to work with them and to get to know them a little. The whole community owes them a tremendous sense of gratitude.

Thank you, one and all!

Best wishes,

Simon Butler
Canon Simon Butler
Vicar of St Mary’s Battersea
07941 552407

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