Lewisham residents have given unprecedented amounts to help people in their own communities, giving a total of £118,000 (as of May 2020) to the Mayor of Lewisham’s Foodbank appeal to date, eclipsing the original target of £10,000. “People have been so generous and so kind” said Mayor Damien Egan, “we couldn’t have a fundraising dinner or event organised, so we just thought we would ask the question and see what people will give”.
Money has not been the limit of the generosity of the people of Lewisham. The borough saw an overwhelming response to the initial callout for volunteers with 1,700 people signing up to help deliver food parcels. This was despite many regular volunteers not being able to get involved as their age means they are required to shield and stay home. Those volunteers who were able to help proved a vital resource for isolated older residents. Blackheath based Age Exchange have worked in supporting residents suffering with dementia, as well as their carers. They have specifically provided activity packs, providing much needed mental exercise and engagement. Elderly residents are not the only group heavily impacted by social isolation, with 7,000 Lewisham residents shielding and relying on support from friends and family. We’ve also experienced a positive response to our own volunteer callouts, and have a network regularly making calls to vulnerable older adults as well as producing Meet Me on the Radio in collaboration with members and partners.
However, COVID-19 has exposed deeper social divides in our communities. The Mayor commented on the impact of health inequality and how it has played out during this crisis – “A serious [issue] is the impact COVID is having on Black African, Black Caribbean and other BAME groups.” Lewisham council have announced a joint study with Birmingham City Council and Birmingham University on the impact of health inequality based on race. This will hopefully not only shed more light on this worrying issue, but also provide some solutions.
A community can only function at its best if everyone is included in important decisions and given the ability to contribute. Lewisham residents have shown the strength of the community during these trying times, and there are important lessons to take from this. We still have some way to go before coming back to some semblance of normality; but we also have a chance to challenge and update what our community looks and feels like. We hope the bonds and connections forged during this time will leave our borough better off when this is all said and done. The reaction we have already seen from the people of Lewisham gives us hope and we look forward to a time when can gather and welcome our community back in person.
Those who are able can still donate to the Mayor of Lewisham Foodbank Appeal.
If you our someone you know is in need of support, please visit the council’s website or Lewisham Local’s COVID-19 hub.
Share your uplifting stories about the borough on social media using the hash tag #LoveLewisham.