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Covid-19 Mutual Aid Forres set up to help community during coronavirus outbreak

By Garry McCartney

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The Facebook group and website are helping to unite and inform the local community during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Facebook group and website are helping to unite and inform the local community during the coronavirus outbreak.

AN ONLINE community group has been set up to offer, information and support during the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid-19 Mutual Aid Forres joins local networks including Kintessack, Brodie & area corona virus support, Covid-19 Mutual Aid Kinloss & Findhorn, and Dunphail, and Logie Support Group to help local people help each other.

The Covid-19 Mutual Aid Forres group was set up by Ariane Burgess on Facebook on Saturday, March 14 for members to connect, share their experiences and keep each other’s spirits up.

Jonathan Kobylanski joined and collaborated with Ariane on website Covid19MutualAidForres.net, a place where people can find out how to join a street network project administered by Forres Area Community Trust (FACT) or get useful local information.

Ariane explained: "I was concerned about people’s mental health in the face of this rapidly evolving situation. I wanted to create a place where people could get together, be supportive, and share useful and factually accurate information - the virtual equivalent of a town well.

"We are aware that not everyone is online or on Facebook, so it is important to get members to go out and make a connection with their neighbours while encouraging social distancing and for everyone to take measures not to spread the virus."

The group and website explains steps members can take to create street networks.

"By doing this we can bring certainty in that we have neighbours that we can look after and who will look after us," said Ariane. "Neighbourly connection is still present in Scotland and in the living memory of many of us who grew up here."

As street by street networks started to register, questions arose on the Facebook group including: how do people who need help let their neighbours know?; how do we keep people requesting and giving support safe?; if we offer to walk dogs is that taking someone’s livelihood away? and how do we organise payment if someone does the shopping for a neighbour?

Ariane said: "All of these situations are simple if the people giving and receiving support are family members, friends, or friendly neighbours who’ve known each other for years. When it’s a new connection, then there is an element of care and awareness that we need to attend to for everyone’s sake. I realised we needed a backbone coordinating organisation that could match people who wanted to help with people who want help in a way that kept everyone safe."

Covid-19 Mutual Aid Forres is working with FACT on a coordinated response with other local organisations and businesses.

Members who want to volunteer to help neighbours are encouraged to join in a Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) membership scheme FACT is rolling out. PVG members are encouraged to join FACT's befriending initiative, the Cameron Project.

"Covid-19 has changed so many people’s way of life and we’ve been thrown into uncertainty," said Ariane. "This way we can keep everyone involved safe and volunteers have the right support.

"Together we can can be clear on the level of support we have to give - skills, training and experience before it is passed on to another organisation that has staff trained to work with specific needs."

To join, visit Covid-19 Mutual Aid Forres on Facebook or the https://www.covid19mutualaidforres.net/ website.

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