Countryside Alliance bringing you community cheer
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The impact that COVID-19 will have on our lives is starting to unfold, showing that there are going to be some uncertain months ahead of us where there will be many more unknowns than knowns. It is in the face of times like this however, where the strength of our rural communities must pull together and act as one. Despite the response to the virus requiring us to distance ourselves physically from one another, it is where communities are closest that its impact can be mitigated the most. Here at the Countryside Alliance, we’ll be on hand to support you, listen to your concerns and act where necessary to ensure that our countryside, and its communities, remain strong, resilient and safe.
Community groups and local businesses are responding to the needs of the many people in rural areas who have followed the government’s advice to self-isolate on the basis of age or an underlying health problem. Food, medication and contact, even if by phone or social media, are going to be the fundamental necessities for many over the coming months. In some ways those of us living in the countryside are lucky to have the sort of close communities, both geographic but also built around activities like farming, shooting and hunting, that will ensure people are not forgotten. And how lucky we are to be able to see sky and countryside even if we have to distance ourselves from friends and neighbours. Loneliness and isolation are, however, already a problem across the countryside and without the regular rituals of markets, shows, matches and fairs it will be a very long and lonely summer for many. We must, and I am sure will, all take responsibility for connecting in whatever way we can with those who face a long period of isolation.
With this in mind, we’ve created a hub of information where we can support those within our rural communities by providing them with the information they need during this time. From clear signposting to relevant information published by government as well as other essential services to ideas on how to support your own community, our COVID-19 Hub will keep you up-to-date on all of the latest guidance that will keep you and your community safe.
We have also launched a new initiative to keep our communities strong and safe, Community Cheer, our new online resource that’s filled with positive stories and updates from communities up and down the country. We’ll be highlighting local stories as well as featuring book reviews, ideas for activities and other useful tips for keeping the mind and body busy. This new positive space will give you the opportunity to share your ideas and connect with others around you at a time when isolation and loneliness are rife.
Rural communities are incredibly proud and self-reliant, so please remember some people may find it difficult to ask for help throughout this time, which is why we all need to keep our eyes and ears open to support those who are less able while still looking after our own health.
We’re also encouraging rural communities to, where possible, support local shops during this difficult time. When the big supermarket chains are running low on certain groceries, you’ll often be able to find what you’re looking for in a local store, farm shop or pub. We have heard about countless shops, pubs and butchers all adapting how they do business during this time, and through serving and delivering to those who are less able and more vulnerable, should be appreciated as the critical resource that they are in our rural communities.
There are already an abundance of ideas circulating the internet detailing how people can signal whether they need support in any capacity. From setting up a community WhatsApp group to simple window cards and phone calls with your neighbours, there’s something that will work for every community. But please remember, not everyone has access to the internet so be sure to make use of village newsletters and noticeboards to keep in touch and share positivity with others.
Between our Countryside Alliance COVID-19 Hub and our brand new Community Cheer page, both of which will be updated constantly with the latest government advice and stay-at-home ideas and other light forms of relief, respectively, there will be plenty to help us all through these uncertain times.
And please remember, the Countryside Alliance is always here to listen to you and act where needed. We ask everyone who lives in a rural community, from our members and supporters to parish councils and churches to share with us what’s going on in your area – both positives and negatives. We also ask businesses to also let us know what’s happening. Are there issues that you want us to pass back to government or maybe you have some ideas of your own that you want to share with others? We want you to tell us what it is that you want for your community, and we’ll do our best to deliver. We want our website to be your website and carry the information that you want and need during this distressing time.
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