On 20th March we organised within the Duns area a leaflet drop of 1,700 flyers providing advice on the help we could offer, how to contact us, and emphasizing that people were not alone at this time. For anyone displaying symptoms we provided information on the procedure to follow and the contact details for help. We also appealed for more volunteers.
Also on 20th March the Duns Community Action Group was formed, and a Heart for Duns became a registered Resilient Communities Hub. A social media site was created to enable businesses, organisations and shops to share information with all sections of the community and provide advice about Covid-19, including disparate things such as how to look after your pets, your mental health, how to self-isolate, and how to keep families active, healthy and happy.
Since those first crucial days we have developed a local network of people who make up facemasks from a template, and who are activated from time to time to replenish supplies. When the VE Day celebrations and marches were cancelled we arranged our own celebration, keeping to the lockdown rules, asking people of all ages to design and create artificial flowers, to ‘plant’ them in an empty flowerbed by the memorials in Duns Park. The flowers made a wonderful, cheerful display and are still there while we wait for new plants to arrive. We also arranged a book swap, which developed into a space for other items: DVDs, boardgames, jigsaw puzzles, tinned and packet food, fresh produce and much more. A sentry box, which was previously a stage prop, is being used to display items. It stands outside the hall, is regularly replenished, and returned items are thoroughly cleaned. So come along and help yourself.
We also deal with numerous individual requests for help, which inevitably is ongoing, for however long it takes. One by-product was volunteers and helpers building relationships and friendships, and as in so many places across the nation, the strengthening of communities. Helping others takes various forms: for example helping families who have elderly relatives in Duns who are isolated from other members who live a distance away; those who are hospitalised needing help with their laundry; or the self-isolating elderly lady who needed help to assemble a new vacuum cleaner.
At this time there are many stories of how people have come together to make a difference and how local organisations, such as A Heart for Duns, with local knowledge and access to a network of local people can provide the support and facilities to make this happen. Long may it continue!