A free COVID-19 community initiative called ‘Friends in Need’ has launched to support the elderly and vulnerable through the COVID-19 restrictions.
COVID-19 has rapidly changed life for all New Zealanders. People are the most isolated they have ever been, which is profoundly impacting our elderly and vulnerable neighbours, especially those living alone. As the COVID-19 situation was rapidly evolving last weekend, Auckland-based sisters Rachel Paris and Bridget Snelling set up ‘Friends in Need’ to provide this group with comfort and connection during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Our parents are both community healthcare workers and Dad’s still the doctor for a local rest home,” says Rachel Paris.
He was explaining to us how they had to close to no visitors, even at Level 2 restrictions, and we were heartbroken for all those people. We also have elderly neighbours who are all alone in their homes through this time.”
Anyone feeling lonely, isolated or without support due to COVID-19 can sign-up to ‘Friends In Need’ and be matched with a volunteer in their neighbourhood. Their volunteer will call them daily to check on their wellbeing and may also be able to pick up essential supplies, such as food and medicines, on their behalf.
Bridget Snelling says, “Like many of you, we’ve been worried that the elderly and vulnerable will feel increasingly isolated, anxious and alone. Level 4 restrictions, while completely necessary, are hard on all of us, but especially those who don’t have immediate support. We’re expecting these to be mainly elderly people, but we’ve had a couple of younger people reach out who live alone and don’t necessarily have a friend to check in on them every day.
We’re saying to volunteers, make a daily phone call to start with, so if you get matched with someone call them every day, check in how they’re doing. Then pick up essential supplies for them, if you can.”
The Government has confirmed that at this stage, volunteers are permitted to pick up essential items for in need people, but must leave those supplies at a gate or on a doorstep to be collected, rather than taken inside.
‘Friends in Need’ is a free community-led service relying entirely on volunteers who will be doing their best to help. It is committed to following Ministry of Health guidelines and Government advice and if volunteers do offer to provide support beyond check-in phone-calls, they are required to maintain 2m social distancing and only travel to pick up and drop off essential supplies.
“We’re all in this together and ‘Friends in Need’ gives us all a way to help our community feel comforted and supported. We want them to know there are people out who care and it’s as easy as a phone call a day, so please reach out,” says Bridget Snelling.
While the initiative is currently focused on Auckland, the overwhelming support from around New Zealand means that Friends in Need will expand to be nationwide.
Those who would like to receive help can reach out in several ways: register online at www.friendsinneed-auckland.com, text Inneed to 3255 followed by their name, email address (if they have one) and suburb, or call 021 064 7625. Those who wish to volunteer to help should register online at www.friendsinneed-auckland.com.