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Cavendish Acts of Kindness

April 20, 2020

 

I don’t know about you, but the last few weeks of lockdown have flown by for me… until this week. This week feels never-ending; missing the physical presence of loved ones, unable to enjoy the glorious sunshine which just felt like it was teasing us, things we took for granted such as “popping to the shop” now an onerous task.  Whether you are sitting this out alone or with family, it is hard.

Not all of us want to Marie Kondo the entirety of our house, do daily workouts that convince the neighbours downstairs that the ceiling is about to fall through or learn a language that, most likely, we’ll never actually practise anyway! If you don’t come out of this lockdown reborn with more knowledge and new learned skills, it’s because you lack discipline, not time you’re doing absolutely fine. We are going through a collective traumatic experience. You don’t have to turn a pandemic into something fun and productive, just getting through it is enough.

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Am someone doing this alone, I am using a variety of strategies to help pass the time and feel like I still have a little purpose. I like to check in with work and all my work colleagues so that I still feel part of a collective. I bake a lot – a great distraction for the mind that keeps me busy (I’m more likely to suffer a bad bout of diabetes than I am the virus). But the thing that is taking up most of my week is something I do as much for other people: I volunteer for my local Covid-19 Community Support Group.

This isn’t a post designed to inflate my head and ego to the size of a small planet, it is simply to share the kind things that are happening currently and to spread some positivity. Also, I hope it might give you some ideas on how you can help within the community.

My local Covid-19 Community Support Group comprises of around 200 volunteers and to date we have helped around 180 members of our local community. I am part of a team of six admins; we make phone calls to the vulnerable and elderly in the community and we find volunteers living close to them. The volunteers go out of their way to complete chores for those who are unable to leave their houses – collecting prescriptions, items of shopping and on one occasion replacing some smoke alarm batteries!

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It has been an absolutely humbling experience. Sometimes frustrating; some people of a certain age are very used to routine, and changes outside of their usual routines can result in confusions an upset, which in turn can be taken out on us. We understand this though, we are all out of routine and we are feeling a little more emotionally weary than usual. For every call from someone who might be a little put out, we speak to another ten who are so incredibly appreciative of our time. It’s not why we do this; we do this because if we weren’t here doing this, there wouldn’t be anyone to collect medications for these people or organise their groceries. But the appreciation that we receive means the absolute world. Sometimes we as admins need a chat just as much as the person at the end of the phone. I have laughed genuine laughter on the phone to these people, some who have lived through a world war and are now facing this uncertain climate and unpredictable future.

Working as an admin for this group has given me a purpose during a time when I have felt powerless to help. It’s given me a reason to get out of bed when the day ahead feels to worrying and uncertain to face. Most importantly, it has opened my eyes to the kindness that is happening around me.

It is so easy to register the negative of what is going on. When we open social media, we are being hounded by adverts telling us we can exit isolation skinnier than ever, there are “influencers” left, right and centre showing us what workout we should be doing and chefs dictating what new dishes we should be cooking. When we turn to our community Facebook/WhatsApp groups we are faced with judgement of those who are taking exercise outside as judged by those who are also taking outdoor exercise. It’s all negative. It makes me feel terrible. I’m sure it makes you feel terrible too!

Working as part of this volunteer group has shown me the kindness existing around me. It has inspired me.

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The other week I couldn’t understand why my neighbour had left their rubbish bags at the door for a few days. It didn’t occur to me that they might be too scared to come outside. Working with my local Covid-19 Community Support Group changed my mindset; the next time I went outside I took their bin bags. Two days ago, some more bags appeared. I took those out too. This time I slipped a note under their door asking if there was anything else I could do to help. Yesterday, my doorbell rang. Outside my door was a bag containing a bottle of bubbly and a long letter explaining why my neighbour and her daughter were unable to leave the house. They gave me their names; said they were so sorry they couldn’t thank me in person. All I did was take their bin bags out and offer to pop to the shops for them, but to them it meant so much more. Their willingness to share with me after I reached out made me realise just how much one small act of kindness can mean to someone.

I am not the only Cavendish team member to partake in such acts of kindness. My fond colleague on the diary team, Eleni, helped out in the Special Olympics during 2011 in Athens. The Special Olympics provide year–round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic–type sports for both children and adults with an intellectual disability, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in the sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

“I was involved with the athletes who were swimming. I was in direct contact with them, helped them with anything needed, as well as advising them and supporting them. I believe that this was the best volunteering I have ever done, as standing next to people with learning disabilities and seeing their smiles and happiness while they were achieving their goals is precious!”

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More recently, our own Rachel (whose Working from Home Blog has been entertaining us all through the weeks) decided to spend her Easter weekend delivering some home baked scones to her isolating neighbours.

“Scones are the easiest British teatime treat and made with all store cupboard ingredients – yes, I have flour! I use my late Mum’s recipe and they are on the table in 20 minutes.  As its Easter Sunday and they are a basic component of the cream tea, plus a change from all the chocolate, I thought it would be a nice token to share with neighbours and friends. Delivered at distance of course and left in the porch, all they need to do is pile on the jam, cream if they have, and forgot about the calories!”

Following her inspiration, I decided to spend my own Easter weekend teaming up with another local baker. We have only ever communicated via social media, but it was such a lovely opportunity to actual chat to each other (from the doorstep, social distancing of course!) and come up with ideas. I provided the cupcakes, she provided the cookies and it was a really welcomed distraction from the fact that I wouldn’t be spending the Easter and Passover period with any of my family.

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Baked treats and kids’ drawings were delivered, by yours truly, to our local ambulance service and Barnet Hospital. I thoroughly enjoyed making them, but what really topped it all off were the messages of thanks I received from doctors and nurses in the ICU at the hospital… the thing that makes me happiest in life is know that I have spread joy through my baking, and I couldn’t ask for any more than to bring just a small smile to the faces of those are working so very hard to get us through this as healthily as possible.

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So, if you are able and have some time on your hands, why not visit https://covidmutualaid.org/ and see if you can help in your local community? Or if the kids have done some artwork, just pop it along to your local NHS providers. Anything you can do at all that will bring the tiniest light of joy to someone else will make the world of difference, and we if we can all do this, and we all keep banging our pans every Thursday at 8pm, then the acts of kindness will eventually outweigh any of the negative narrative.

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Keep yourselves well and safe and we look forwards to seeing you all again soon!

 

 

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