Shortly after the floods that devastated large parts of Pontypridd, residents were faced with the COVID-19 situation. The community spirit generated in the flood response is building up yet again to support the people of Pontypridd through this new emergency.
Within a matter of hours of lockdown being announced a network of Pontypridd volunteer COVID-19 groups were set up, of which the Hawthorn Group is just one, some of which are led by Watch members or include local Watch members as volunteers.
The groups each have a presence on Facebook and have also reached out to residents with leaflet drops providing a contact phone number to use to ask for help. Some groups have made use of the “Virtually Local” phone system which for a very small fee per minute allows one virtual number to use used to divert calls to up to four other numbers.
The groups are made up of volunteer community members including residents, local councillors and organisations, and are supported by Interlink the local voluntary umbrella organisation. They work alongside the local authority to support residents who do not fit into the local authority’s vulnerable category for help but may still need practical help with isolation such as essential shopping, collecting prescriptions, providing a telephone ‘buddy’ or signposting to services. The groups recruited and deployed checked volunteers to residents requesting help.
Something positive to come out of the floods which hit us in February, was that key relationships and links between community leaders across Pontypridd were established which gave us a great foundation to form this network efficiently. We are very aware that many local residents didn’t have time to recover from the flooding and have been thrust into another crisis, some self-isolating now in homes with no proper kitchen facilities - so the need for community support is essential.
Katie Hadley from the Cilfynydd, who was a key part of the flood relief
Volunteers adhere to strict rules on social distancing, health and safety and safeguarding. They follow a guideline document which was drawn up within the first few weeks of existence with help from Interlink. Shopping is normally paid for with contactless payment and then monies recovered from the resident with contactless if possible. Volunteers do not enter homes or ask for large sums of money in advance.
A local graphic designer, Hannah John designed a group logo (see above), which was printed onto volunteer T-shirts provided by Interlink.
The support and feedback we’ve received has been fantastic and at times like this, that level of support gives us more drive and determination to continue with what we’re doing.
Gav Richards from the Graig group
The team has had to adapt to working together under the new social distancing rules. Some team members have had a steep learning curve with using technology such as Webex for video-conferencing.
This national emergency has meant that we have had to rapidly change the ways we communicate with each other and get organised. I'm used to sitting round tables in community centres and church halls helping to run meetings, and now I have to do it online using video conferencing! We have had the odd teething trouble, but, thanks to help from tech guru Jamie McCallion, we have been successfully using WebEx to run regular meetings so that all the group admins from across the Taff area can share knowledge and experiences.
Cathy Lisles from the Hawthorn Volunteer Support group
The groups have been set up in the interest of community spirit in such a challenging time, and have drawn on the strength, resilience and kindness of the Pontypridd community.
Founding member Louise Karabulut
Overall, group communication as well as on the ground assistance has worked well.
There have been fewer people in need that we expected, I think than anyone expected. There is a good support network out there already but we are catching those who for one reason or another really fall through the gaps. We are looking at supporting the community in other ways such as advice for parents and carers on home schooling, advice on avoiding COVID-19 scams, and helping those who may be experiencing domestic abuse.