ZOOMing in on Communities during Covid-19

On Monday 23rd March Boris Johnson announced that the UK would be entering an enforced lock down period. After witnessing the stringent preventative measures of our European Neighbors, for the rest of us it felt like Brexit is not the only issue where the UK lags behind the rest of Europe. 

Today, the UK has reached a total of 9,529 cases and 463 deaths from Covid-19. Medical professionals estimate that our National Health Service is three weeks away from peaking, unable to cope with the demand. All around the globe, fragile capitalist systems are quaking in the face of the Coronavirus. 

I could write an article about the UK’s never ending Brexiteer isolationist policies, lament about the impending doom of youth unemployment or the ignorance of politicians considering Gender in their Corona responses*… But it is not all doom and gloom. In this time we need positive stories more than ever. So I decided to focus on the response on my doorstep, my local community in Bensham, Gateshead. 

I am lucky enough to share a house with four lovely lock down buddies, so at least we’ve got each other’s company through what feels like an all too real episode of Black Mirror.  

First off, the house is taking Corona as an opportunity to improve our fitness. So everyday we are either doing Couch 2 5K, it’s great if you haven’t run for a while and was made by the National Health Service and is FREE! Or we do a Yoga routine (also FREE: Check out Yoga with Adriene) with a (gross) ab-workout! 

I decided to take social distancing as an opportunity to meet my neighbors. I didn’t know any of them before last week! But I was concerned that there might be people who need my help and being young, fit and healthy I really want to do what I can. Before full-on lock down kicked in, I put a note through everyone’s letterbox on my street offering to help with shopping, dog-walks and childcare. 

I received some lovely responses from my neighbors and we met for a socially distant coffee. We certainly got some funny looks stood in a huge circle two meters apart. But getting to know the people who share our street has given me a safety blanket that stretches beyond the fear of this virus. 

We share updates and selfies daily and play little games to keep each other entertained! Knowing that we’re all in this together and we’ll be a whole lot closer by the end of this mess is so fulfilling. There is a lot of love and solidarity in Bensham. We are already planning a street party for when ‘rona is over! 

I signed up to Foster a dog! DogsTrust UK runs The Freedom Project which matches volunteers with dogs who are owned by survivors fleeing domestic abuse. Often, victims/survivors cannot take their dog with them to a shelter and so the DogsTrust Project provides foster-carers who can take care of the dog until the owner has secured their own accommodation, safe from violence. I’m super excited to be getting on board with this project and giving a dog some respite care in our lovely home. We can’t wait to take our pup on our permitted once-daily exercise outing, and get lots of snugs of course!

Before complete lock down I also made a list of all the businesses willing to deliver on our local high street. Supporting your local shopkeepers is more important now than ever. I made this list into a poster I shared on Coronavirus Facebook help groups so that those who are vulnerable can order their shopping to be delivered. I’m lucky enough to have a range of wonderful greengrocers and I always try to shop local. Now is the time to avoid the big supermarkets that are bombarded with panic-buyers and see what you can do to help support your local livelihoods! I would recommend searching for groups in your area on social media. 

I was also one of the 450,000 thousand people who signed up to volunteer with the NHS overnight. For this I think I can actually say, good job UK, I am proud of us, gold-star Great Britain. 

Our family group calls have been most entertaining. It seems everyone is going wild for the video-calling service, ZOOM! ZOOM must be experiencing a real BOOM with families and businesses making the most of their group calling features just now. If you’re missing hanging out with your pals, why not host a group chat on here? You can even watch a film alongside ZOOMing with your pals! It’s really hilarious to try and draw each other and then reveal your friend’s portraits…coming from someone who is horrendously bad at drawing.

These small things are what helps the endorphins keep on coming. Laughter and exercise with my flatmates keeps me smiling. I cannot recommend doing these things enough. Equally, remember that not everyday has to be jam-packed with productivity. This is a time where it’s actually okay to chill out and unwind.

You don’t need to guilt-trip yourself for struggling to find the motivation to give everything full pelt all the time! We live in a society that measures success by productivity but your mental health is as important is your physical health. So take some time and do your best to enjoy it.

Take care and stay safe EuroPeers! 

By Emily