Open Collective
Open Collective
5 weeks in: A look back at what we have achieved
Published on April 21, 2020 by Nashira Haston

I realised the other day that I had been at home for almost 5 weeks during this COVID-19 outbreak. I became more reflective on what Canonbury Mutual Aid has achieved in this time.

How it began

To give context, it's also been about 5 weeks since the Canonbury Mutual Aid group was created. It's hard to say for sure - what started as a scrappy, well-intentioned WhatsApp group has now evolved into so much more. We were a group of people who didn't know each other but were united in wanting to help others during this scary and unprecedented time. For myself, I had time on my hands and knew my skills could be put towards a good cause, so I decided to get more involved. And how it has developed!

Getting the word out

We had to get the word out quickly that our Mutual Aid group existed before the inevitable lockdown that the UK was going to enter. And with the awareness that not everybody has access to email or the internet. We set up a centralised phone number for people to be able to call us, as well as email for written requests. An amazing graphic designer created our flyer, which we were able to send to local businesses as well as print and distribute around the neighbourhood. Local printers were kind to print our flyers for free and by splitting the ward into sections we managed to flyer everybody in about five days. Not bad for a group that had only started about a week prior!

Growing, growing, growing

We started getting people wanting to volunteer their time to help others. We created a form for people to sign up so we could know what they could help with and their availability. To ensure that everybody was still able to help, and to confirm who they said they were, every volunteer received a phone call from us. To this day, we have spoken to and have 160 volunteers ready to help with any task that comes our way.

With a number of requests coming through, we've now trained 12 volunteers to help with our centralised phone line, ensuring we can keep our phone line open as much of the day as we can. These people are donating their time to speak to vulnerable people in our community. And I'm so pleased to hear nothing but positive feedback about these amazing people who are helping to coordinate our volunteers.

The results so far

What I think is most impressive about this group, is that we have been able to help with almost 200 requests so far. From the simple to the complex, the fact that we are here to help those who need it during this time makes it all worthwhile. Communities are blossoming and new friendships will arise out of this situation. While we may not be able to physically meet each other for a while, we've seen this connection thrive in other ways.

In the background, we also created a Safeworking Group to make sure that help seekers and volunteers are aware of safeguarding practices, and have implemented processes to keep everyone safe. We have also created social media accounts (which you can follow below) to spread the word of our group and share useful info during this time. Our flyer has been translated into languages such as Turkish, Persian, Arabic, French, Spanish, Albanian, Balkan and Hebrew so that we can reach as many members of our community as possible. We also share useful mental health resources and updates from the council to help ensure people are as updated and safe as they can be.

To think that we have created this functioning group in just over a month is an amazing achievement. I'd like to thank everybody who has volunteered, donated, shared our flyer, engaged with our content or talked about us with a neighbour. This is collaborative Mutual Aid group and we couldn't be where we are without the support.

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Thank you,

Nashira Haston

Canonbury Mutual Aid Coordinator