Rye Mutual Aid and REACT

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Since the first death in England attributed to the pandemic on 5 March, life has changed for all of us. This first death brought home the risks that many countries had been facing since the early outbreaks in China in December 2019. By Monday, 23 March, at Rye Town Council, it was already clear that we faced a pandemic.

“Lockdown”, to reduce cross infection, was the new government policy and Rye Emergency Action Community Team (REACT) with the newly formed Rye Mutual Aid (RyeMAG) alerted councillors to what might be needed to support the vulnerable and isolated as the pandemic spread.

Since then REACT and RyeMAG have been working closely together to establish a support framework with some 20 voluntary groups across Rye and district. RyeMAG successfully enlisted hundreds of local volunteers and REACT negotiating behind the scenes to ensure communication with a wide range of organisations from local authorities, food suppliers, chemists, and other voluntary bodies. The result is a sustainable network of community support. Money has been raised, PPE acquired, volunteers have been using their life skills to draft protocols and launch briefing videos as an aid to safe operation. Zoom has proved invaluable for virtual meetings.

Momentum has grown rapidly, Rye Mutual Aid has huge local support.

In the last two weeks some 135 calls have been taken asking for support of one kind or another. Demand is expected to rise as the pandemic continues.

In terms of supply, we have seen many local businesses rise to the occasion by establishing home delivery for food and medicines. Details of these have been published on the RyeMAG website. Demand on the Rye food bank has risen and procedures adapted to cope with the risks.

Although RyeMAG was first into the field there are now several other structures providing support. This week the NHS volunteer army tasked by an app and administered by the Royal Voluntary Service is now up and running. East Sussex County Council through Rother District Council and using Rother Voluntary Action has established community hubs across the area; RyeMAG provides those hubs in Eastern Rother.

East Sussex County Council and Rother are also providing food parcels to those vulnerable people on the national shielded patient list. In addition there are small independent local groups looking out for each other on a neighbourhood watch basis. REACT has been trying to keep track of developments and alert the different groups to each other’s efforts.

As we near the third week of lockdown, better weather has arrived and systems are beginning to bed in but it is clear that for all the talk of lifting restrictions, in a week that has seen the highest national daily rate of deaths, there is little expectation of getting back to a new normal any time soon.

Editor’s Note:

Rye Mutual Aid has contacted us about face masks.  Dominic Manning writes:

“Owing to a shortage of face masks, Rye Mutual Aid has asked people with sewing skills to follow a template for making their own, to be handed to volunteers and to staff in local shops. If you have the skills, can you help us? Contact: dom.manning@btinternet.com

Image Credits: Anthony Kimber , Rye Mutual Aid .

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