Community in the time of COVID-19

When lockdown swept the country in March, millions of people had their world shrunk down to four walls.

Movement was restricted to local streets and shops. Vulnerable people and the elderly risked catching the virus if they went outside for food shopping, but faced hunger and loneliness if they stayed inside.

Times seemed very desperate, and it was not clear how we could continue to function as a society.

Yet, in these difficult circumstances, new connections appeared. Hyper local community groups on Facebook emerged, offering support to neighbours in need. On my street, flyers were posted encouraging those who required support to get groceries and prescriptions to contact them for assistance.

Local restaurants and takeaways have pivoted their usual business models in order to help those who need it, delivering meals to NHS workers. And small, voluntary organisations, at risk of folding completely, switched from their usual charitable aims and evolved into groups providing a lifeline to people in need.

Lockdown has demonstrated that in the midst of chaos and uncertainly, a community that is connected is a community that can survive. These connections, forged by a desire to see something good happen out of a crisis, have provided vital support to the most vulnerable in our society.

Small, grass roots organisations are best placed to help their local community because they know the people and understand the challenges facing them. These organisations have only been able to survive because of grants they have received, often funded by donations from businesses, individuals and the Government.

This new appreciation for the strength of community action will have been a surprise to many, but not to my colleagues and me.

For 20 years, Community Foundation Wales has been connecting donors with the people driving change and tackling barriers in local communities across Wales.

One of the things I love most about my job is seeing first-hand the work being done across Wales, at a grass roots level, helping people from all walks of life.

We help make community action happen.

COVID19 presented us with many challenges, but also the chance to demonstrate our agility as an organisation.

Within four days of lockdown, we had set up the Wales Coronavirus Resilience Fund and, by the end of the first week, the fund stood at £400,000. Within two weeks, we had given out grants to 65 organisations. We have held 30 grant panels in the last 3 months, which is the number of grant panels we would normally hold in a year.

In total, since the middle of March, we have achieved a fund total of £2.6 million, with grants awarded to nearly 500 groups across the country.

Lockdown has been a testing time but it has also provided us with an opportunity to show the vital work of grass roots and hyperlocal groups and organisations and let the people of Wales know what we are all about.

If you would like to find out how you can get involved with the work we do, please do get in touch.

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