Charlie Watkinson shares her experience of providing and receiving support during the Covid-19 pandemic as a member of the Nunhead Knocks Mutual Aid group.

On the changing nature of the support…

Initially, the majority of support that was needed was going to collect things for people that were self-isolating. That still continues now, but what we’re seeing more and more is people who need financial support.

That’s people who are running out of money because either they’re out of jobs, or their income has changed and their savings are running out and they need help getting funds. We’re doing more things around mental health and befriending more people needing that kind of support.

We’re seeing more people who are out of food, particularly in the halftime week where the kids of the key workers are at home. People who need help with money, who are running out of money and don’t know where to go to.

The stories are getting more serious…

One gentleman was homeless until February, borrowed the money to get into a house and now has no food, no clothes, nothing. We’ve been able to fundraise to get these items donated to him.

Another family has just moved from temporary housing into permanent social housing. They only have a single bed between a parent and a child. So through the donations that our neighbours have provided we’ve got them a couple of double beds, a TV, a laptop for the child to their homework on, bookcases, books, activities for the kids. It’s amazing, but it’s definitely getting more serious and more complex in its needs.

On the mutual nature of Mutual Aid…

One of the things that I think has been the biggest impact of Nunhead Knocks, and all of the Mutual Aid groups, isn’t just who we’re supporting. It isn’t just the people who need help, the people that are self-isolating who’ve run out of money, who are vulnerable or at high risk. It’s also the people that are volunteering.

I know that for me personally when we first set this up, if I didn’t have this to focus on and I didn’t have this outlet to feel I was contributing to the crisis and helping my neighbours, I would have struggled a lot more than I have done. It’s helped my mental health and wellbeing tenfold.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s very stressful and it’s very emotional work, but I think that’s one of the really big impacts of having these Mutual Aid and community groups is that it’s helping people to feel like they have a sense of control in this current situation, and that they can give to their neighbours. Even if it’s just sharing a tweet so that more people hear about us, every little bit amounts to a massive, massive impact.

On making the community spirit last…

The problems that we’ve seen with people not having money, not having resources, being higher risk, not being able to leave their homes anyway… Those problems all existed before Covid-19, so what’s really great is that hopefully these community groups and people that have come together in response to the crisis see the value of working as a community. It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

It has been absolutely wonderful seeing some of the positive things that have happened in our local area because of this. It’s just a shame that it took Covid-19 for something like this to happen.

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