The Well Kibworth
The Well Kibworth – Supporting the Community during COVID-19
The Well is an independent charity that over the last 10 years has sought to support the needs of the local community. The onset of COVID-19 hasn’t changed that ethos, but it has considerably changed how we deliver it.
Originally operating a café and preloved clothes shop with face to face and outreach services, we had to suspend our existing services. However, given our Christian values the most vulnerable in the community have always been an important focus of our services, so ceasing to operate was not an option. So we set about conversing with our partners in the community about how The Well could provide support, and where possible be a hub for local initiatives.
It soon became clear that a need for sourcing and storing food and/or delivering cooked meals was a unifying theme. It seemed sensible and appropriate for The Well to handle a referral system for a Pop-up Food bank in Kibworth as a registered Charity with policies and procedures for safeguarding and risk assessment already in place. We also had experience of Food Bank operation through handling referrals to The Jubilee Food Bank (on behalf of Kibworth Primary School in particular).
A local pub -The Railway Arms – also approached us offering 100 cooked meals a week to go out to people shielding and/or struggling financially due to Covid-19 (this has now increased to 200 per week). They were keen to work with a registered charity to ensure fairness of distribution and to secure a confidential way of working with referral agencies to assess what was required. We are also registered with the charity Fare Share, receiving fresh produce to use in meals as well as a long standing arrangement with the local Co-op.
Working with these partners allowed us to work with two different groups of people. The foodbank providing support to those with significant financial struggles, and meals for people cut off from carers and families because of the pandemic, but with illness or disability. Unifying both approaches was our underlying ethos to connect with people, deliver food and meals, and use this contact to identify other needs such as telephone listening support.
The support has been provided by existing and new volunteers. Our experience of managing volunteer networks allowed us to quickly respond to the needs of the community with a wide range of skills. Some have worked for The Samaritans in the past, for example, and booking meals for people with special dietary needs,
The services have forged an even stronger connection across the community, with volunteers identifying and supporting needs as they find them. This includes debt relief guidance, palliative care, isolation and mental health issues – needs that otherwise may have gone unmet. Suddenly, a whole group of people feel able to voice how difficult life really is for them and have reached out for help.
Statistically, we reach out to on average 60 people per week through the food related services (maximum being 81 in one week), with over 100 people on our records. An additional 8-12 are Listened to. Around 30% of those were known to us already through our everyday work. A further 60% of referrals come from local schools, Social prescribers from the Doctors Surgeries and a small proportion are from social media groups in local villages and adult social care.
Volunteers have also expressed how good it is for their own well-being, to feel that they can do something worthwhile during the lock-down period. Many of our Listeners are shielding themselves or a partner and have been unable to engage in many other social or volunteering activities. Some have lost jobs or have been on furlough and this has been vital for their self-esteem and keeping upbeat. Most volunteers involved feel that this is a natural expression of what The Well stands for in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in our community. One volunteers’ response to why she is involved in this and why The Well should be was:
“Well, what else would we have done? It just feels normal.”
So, if anything the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the role The Well has endeavoured to play in the community. However, like many organisations we have to wonder what our new norm will look like. The Trustees are considering questions around the needs of the community into the future; whether there is an ongoing need for a foodbank and if so who and how should this be provided; how to re-introduce our previous services; and how to meet the new needs of the community. We will continue to work with existing and new partners, continuing to pioneer new and innovative initiatives to alleviate the underlying needs of our community.