“It’s good to talk.” It’s been over 25 years since Bob Hoskins entered the nations consciousness when he first growled that now infamous line on our TV screens back in 1994.
It’s a lovely sentiment that many fear has been somewhat lost with the advances in technology over the past 20 years, with more and more of us communicating via text, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and email to name a few, rather than picking up the phone and hearing each other’s voice.
Nowadays most of us are probably more likely to reply to an email rather than picking up the phone, but since Covid-19 forced the UK to announce lockdown restrictions on 23rd March, maybe things are changing.
It’s written in our manifesto that ‘We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to be happy’ and for the past 30 years Forever Manchester has championed the belief that living in a connected, thriving community is one way of trying to make that happen.
We focus on what’s strong not what’s wrong and a key principle of our approach in communities is to identify, connect and showcase the great groups, organisations and physical spaces that already exist in an area. By getting to know more people, groups and places in our communities, we connect people with similar ideas, encourage new community projects and the sharing of skills, places and experiences that make people happy.
Our Community Building Team here at Forever Manchester is a big part of this work, with staff members ordinarily out on the ground each day in our communities, connecting with residents face to face and most importantly encouraging new connections between them.
But what now? The arrival of Covid-19 has unfortunately meant that as a nation we are being forced to stay in our homes for our own and others safety, meaning our Community Builders are unable to be our friendly face out and about in our communities and can no longer meet and chat with groups, residents and partners in person like we did so easily only a few weeks ago.
Instead, we have been trying different ways to stay connected with our communities. We’ve all learned very quickly where our webcams are, become adept at apps we’ve never heard of before and realised (too late for some!) that if you decide to conduct a video call when working from home, it’s probably a good idea to accept that the kids (and pets!) are likely to get involved too!
We’ve been sharing some of the fantastic things that local community organisations and groups have been doing to support our communities in the wake of the pandemic, connecting residents that are asking for support as well as those who are offering support, to these networks.
This continuation of communication in it’s various forms has been well received by the community with some residents admitting that they’d been feeling a bit isolated and lonely not being able to attend the groups and clubs that normally help them feel connected to their community.
As such, telephone calls as well as online video conversations via Zoom have been scheduled in as weekly ‘catch up and cuppa’ chats with residents from all over our communities, with our Community Builders offering a familiar and friendly voice on a regular basis. Some conversations have involved giving advice, some are simply to agree with “can you believe all this is happening”, some just to listen so residents know someone is there. The chats have involved conversations about a huge range of topics and most importantly nearly all involve having a bit of a laugh.
Residents we’ve connected with have expressed how much this has meant to them: –
“My family are fine thank you for caring, hope you and yours are too, it’s good to care xxx”.
“Thanks for all you do Lisa it’s very much appreciated.”
“All the best to all at Forever Manchester, thanks for all your help, stay well.”
One resident admitted that this was the first conversation she’d had with another human that week and how nice it was to hear from someone. Another conversation with a group of residents via video led to an idea being explored for an online version of their bingo club. During one conversation our Community Builder complained that she didn’t have any fresh rosemary left to do some cooking with and was advised by a resident that there is a huge bush of it 10 minutes from her house -problem solved!
We’re still here to help people feel and stay connected as much as we can in our communities and will continue to do so no matter what the next few weeks and months bring.