You never know how strong you are....

Rural North Wales

According to Bob Marley 'you never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice'. Heather Maling from Community Catalysts describes life in rural lockdown. 

I live in an area where the population of sheep outnumber the population of human beings many times over. Here in Powys my nearest neighbours are over a mile away, we have a high proportion of older residents and families often live far away. Where I live social isolation is quite a normal state of affairs. Some people are from families who have been farming in this area for generations and others, like me, have moved here for the love of the outdoors. We are a real community sharing the ups and downs of life and helping each other out when needed.

Local people here are extremely resourceful and resilient, but life does throw challenges, none greater than what the world is experiencing right now.

I work for Community Catalysts, an organisation that helps people across the country to start and run small enterprises that support and care for people in their community. I started this role in December and was amazed at how quickly people heard about the project and got in touch.

The flooding in early 2020 showed the importance of local people helping other local people, but this has all been overshadowed by Covid-19. The large homecare agencies often struggle to get to people in rural areas, meaning that small local providers are so important. Thankfully small enterprises are rising to the challenge, enabling people to come home from hospital and get the support they need in the villages where they live. Today one enterprise leader said ‘this crisis has shown us who really are the key people are in our communities.’

Since Covid19 things have really changed.

Instead of going out and meeting people now I am doing that online. Everyone is having to work differently, meeting on computer screens with our fears of technology put to one side. I have learned I need to adapt to the times. Networking is my thing and it is really challenging not to be able to meet face to face, but there are some moments of joy. As an example I recently saw a Facebook post from a woman who had been working as an exercise instructor, going into care homes and helping residents do chair exercises and yoga – she had lost her job as a result of the virus. I made contact, we had a chat and I offered my help. Fast forward a few weeks, she is now offering support to people at home, being paid through direct payments. Every day she visits a woman with dementia who finds the concept of social distancing a challenge. Adding structure to this person’s day has made a huge difference and may have prevented her from moving into a care home.

I am reflecting that it is amazing what I can do from home and still keep in touch with people. I am sure that this will change how I work in the future and have been talking to people from other local organisations who feel the same. The next step will be for us all here in Powys to start planning how we can work more closely and smartly in the future, using technology and our newfound experience. It will be a different future I am sure but one that really intrigues me.

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