Community life is essential for our health, happiness, and general wellbeing. Having a strong community infrastructure and supportive social networks helps us all withstand and adapt to shocks. Covid-19 has made us all so much more aware of the value of our local communities and of having strong social connections.
Since the outbreak of the virus, local communities have leapt into action and, as a result, many people have experienced greater neighbourliness, mutual support, and an increased sense of belonging. Neighbours have connected with and looked out for each other more than usual. Informal support groups have organised themselves to help those most in need and many people have volunteered with the NHS, community hubs and local charities. ONS research* into the social impact of COVID-19, reflects this in reporting a steady increase in community spirit, with two thirds of adults feeling that local community members would support them if needed; over three quarters thinking that people were doing more to help each other; two thirds checking in on neighbours who might need help and, over a third doing shopping or other tasks, for their neighbours.
So, over the past months, communities have shown their ability to come together and support each other. But many still need our continuing support, especially those who still feel excluded, unheard and isolated. Pope Francis reminds us that, ‘Baptismal grace reveals the intimate bond between brothers and sisters in Christ, who are called to share, to identify with others and to give according to each one’s needs … a way of listening to the cry of the poor — which is very pleasing to God — and of giving him back, what belongs to him.’ (June 2019, Vatican City). Those already disadvantaged are likely to find it more challenging to maintain their resilience as we ease back onto relative normality. This is where our church and other local community organisations are so well placed to help us identify, connect with and support those who would otherwise be hidden from view and suffering.
With Pope Francis, let us to pray that the Holy Spirit will ‘make our communities places in which to welcome and practice new life, works of solidarity and communion; places where liturgies are an encounter with God, which become communion with our brothers and sisters.’ (Vatican City, June 2019).
INVOLVE Bracknell – Aims to promote any charitable purposes focused on community, advancement of education, protection of health, relief of poverty, distress, and sickness. Working with local voluntary, community and faith groups and partners to ensure that there is a healthy environment in which they can provide essential services to local people. Call 01344 304 404; email firstname.lastname@example.org
Bracknell Forest Community Network The objective of the Community Network is to support individuals and their carers to remain socially included, better understand their mental health, prevent relapse, and develop their confidence, life skills and resilience so they can live as independently as possible. Supports individuals and carers living with a variety of conditions including psychosis, personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, dementia, anxiety and depression. If you would like to make a referral (self-referrals welcome), email email@example.com or call 01344 823300.
Jealotts Hill Community Land share: is a six-acre site between Bracknell and Maidenhead. The site is used and enjoyed by the local community, working and supporting each other on horticultural activities. Call 07867 695 931 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Healthwatch Bracknell Forest is an independent champion for health and social care, gathering and representing local people’s views about the health and social care services they receive. Call 01344 266 911 https://www.healthwatchbracknellforest.co.uk/
The ARK Trust: is committed to improving the quality of life and providing opportunities for people with disabilities, the disadvantaged and those that support them, by encouraging their active participation in their community. To support people through information, advice and advocacy, giving people their voice heard and ensuring their views are listened to. They aim to provide activities in a relaxed atmosphere, to alleviate loneliness and encourage people to improve their health and well-being. https://www.theark.org.uk/
Public Health Bracknell: Includes links to Social Prescribing; Community map; Mental Wellbeing portal; link to Sport in Mind https://health.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/
Berkshire Community Foundation is a charity supporting local charities and non-profit organisations. They take care of due diligence and give charities and projects in need of funding the opportunity to apply for life-changing grants. https://www.berkshirecf.org/
*(ONS Research: Coronavirus and the Social Impacts on Great Britain: 23 April 2020)