A West Belfast-based support group has brought together a wide range of local volunteers including healthcare workers, shop employees and teachers to offer practical assistance to a community which has been rocked by the Coronavirus crisis.
Teacher Rachel Armstrong and friend Rachael Braniff, founders of the Covid-19 Community Support (West Belfast) Group, have already attracted 8,000 followers to their Facebook page.
“The main aim of the initiative was to offer our support to people in the community and within a matter of hours I was inundated with requests from people who were willing to volunteer in some capacity," says Rachel.
“We have posted the names of eight of our members who are willing to help out those in need and we also have a WhatsApp group chat for us to share requests and decide on the best action to take."
Rachel says volunteers with the new group have delivered 3,000 leaflets door-to-door across West Belfast. “We have had over 30 volunteers of all ages out helping to deliver leaflets from Turf Lodge to Lagmore. We do know people are spreading the world as we have been put in contact with people through referrals from their family and friends,” she said.
Added Rachel “We are taking all the necessary precautions advised by Public Health Agency and the World Health Organisation to keep ourselves and the people of our community safe. However, I am not sure how much longer we can continue as lockdown brings some uncertainty to us being able to get out. Nevertheless, we will continue to support people as best we can. We are also directing people to the local shops which have been pillars of the community and are now providing delivery to those who are in isolation.”
Supermarket giant Sainsbury's and local retailer Noel Grimley Electrics were among the companies weighing in behind the new group.
“I want to personally thank everyone who has volunteered, donated items, or helped out in any way," says Rachel. "West Belfast doesn’t always get a good name, but we are a strong community who are there for each other and I have never been more proud to say I am from West Belfast."