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As a result of this challenging time, amazing stories have come to light, showing not only how resilient people are, but how they have used this time to help others; whether thatís delivering supplies to a family member or vulnerable neighbour or joining an ever-growing army of volunteers to work in the wider community.

Here weíre sharing stories from different people about how theyíve been using this time to make a positive difference - whether thatís for themselves or others.

1) Dr Varuni Wimalasiri, Senior Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour, the Bournemouth University Business School:

Iíve been volunteering and helping to coordinate volunteer activities in the local COVID-19 support effort to assist people in my local area in Exeter.

As part of my research activities before the lockdown, I had been working very closely with a city council and various charities in Devon to assist in refugee resettlement. I was therefore able to access my network immediately to provide for the emerging needs of COVID-19 in my community.

Iíve become part of a volunteering coordinating team of six people in my local area; we have over 100 volunteers and 5,000 residents. Over the last few weeks weíve been able to support those who are most vulnerable in our community and Iíve also used my research findings from working with vulnerable groups to help me develop a website dedicated to supporting the wellbeing of volunteers as they go about helping others.

Recently, our biggest topic of volunteer discussion has been about how we get free food to people who are most affected by the economic downturn created by COVID-19. Weíre sourcing all our contacts and working with local food charities and networks in other areas to address this. Weíre also making sure weíre supporting local businesses in our activities Ė who have been amazing and offered us many services and products for free to help the effort, even though this is a difficult time for them as well.

Iíve been heartened to see the sheer effort that is going in in my community to help those who are lonely, hungry or unwell. People are going the extra mile to put a poster up, to find ways to cook a meal for a neighbour, and ensure people are well and in good spirits. Iíve seen a tremendous amount of compassion and regard for each other and I really hope this continues well after the lockdown.

2) Amy Walker, Placement Development Advisor:

I live in Hastings Old Town, a really beautiful place with, it turns out, a lot of older residents who are shielding from Covid-19. I've always worked remotely for BU, so once the students on placement seemed more stable, I felt I could give more time to the community as I didn't have to adjust to working from home.

In early March, Harry, 11, and I went door to door (with gloves on) putting postcards through the doors of our neighbouring three streets, inviting them to join a WhatsApp group so we could look out for each other, as a lockdown seemed imminent. ​

We went from knowing six neighbouring families, (and only knowing two of those beyond hello), to being part of a lively group of 34 households. Phil is over 70 and records a song on his ukelele that he posts in the group each morning. Liz is shielding alone with her dog, and when she posted a picture of her homemade bra mask, the group provided her with more reliable, if less exciting, options. Harry has walked Angela's ancient pugs for her when she hurt her leg, Brendan from the B&B gave my husband some excellent homemade marmalade for his birthday, and, thanks to posted photos and shared banter, we now all feel more part of the community.

On VE day we had socially distanced drinks in our street, I suggested we wore red, white, blue or 1940s dress. A friend who had lost her father to Covid-19 two weeks earlier said it made her feel normal again. We had a laugh but we didn't conga. Chris's mum Stella, who is shielding, looked out over us from her room. Alan, 86, told us about being 12 on VE day and having to move out of his house in Wapping with his sisters when it was bombed.

Since the lockdown, Iíve volunteered through the GoodSAM app and also joined HEART, a local voluntary group in Hastings. I also run Media Parents, a jobsite for flexible work in TV. TV freelancers are under threat at the moment so I started running online events and CV masterclasses as a support mechanism, which I've now also done for ScreenSkills and ITV. I think it's important for the TV community to visibly stick together at this point to stop talent leaving, so we are lucky that this is easy to do online, covering the whole of the UK.

Whilst I feel I've worked harder than ever to support students through uncertain times, the MHFA (Mental Health First Aid) training I had from BU last year has really helped me to support other people - students, people in TV and in our local community. Because Hastings is an outlying community it's likely we will have the disease in our community for longer, and until there is a vaccine, or a cure, the threat to our older, shielding residents will be as deadly as ever. Iím really grateful for our strong community spirit, and the positives that this disease has brought, from local communities, to industries, to working environments. And Harry said it felt good to help our neighbours.




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