Over the past year a lot has changed. Our lives seemingly unrecognizable in what we are all describing as the ‘new normal’. What was once a simple ‘pop to the shops’ outing now carries with it a sense of dystopia, as everyone hides behind masks and stands well away (well, in most cases). Even the once simple task of paying for goods is now a dance around floor stickers and shouting through perspex. A lot has changed but the biggest impact is being felt by charities.
Where I live at least, I can say for certain that the sense of community has never been stronger. For example, we now have a Facebook group for people who live within our road, setup at the start of lockdown to help the more vulnerable residents who needed to shield, now also being used to give away plants and keep people up to date with local gossip and goings-on in the road.
There have been lots of small action groups setup by individuals to help the vulnerable with everything from shopping to bin collections, and there is a great deal of local pride that as a society we have been looking after each other. Overall I don’t think anyone would disagree that as a society we have stood up and cared for each other, in the most part, but I believe we are on the verge of losing some of the most important parts of our community.
Having recently spent time with various people who volunteer and work in the local charity sector, the conversation seems to be dominated quickly by an underlying anxiety; we are possibly about to lose a huge number of essential local charities. Events across the country have been cancelled due to COVID-19; there is no London Marathon this year to name just one which reportedly raised £66.4 million for charities last year, but it is not just the large events. Local bonfire nights have been cancelled, all sorts of small, low-key local events which may only raise a few hundred pounds by themselves; cumulatively fund a huge amount of charitable work. Sports matches have been cancelled and it is unlikely many veterans will be able to sell poppies this year, and so it goes on.
While the larger charities will be struggling with this loss of income, it is far worse for the small charities we all take for granted locally. The local Scout group, the dog rescue centre, homeless shelters, the tiny charities that are run by one or two people in their spare time, who give something unique to the local community. You may not notice these charities day to day, but they are there, living hand to mouth while making a huge difference to people’s lives. These are the biggest losers in this whole situation. Without the ability to hold events and raise money, they cannot operate, and it is possible that without additional funding we may lose them for ever.
While on one hand COVID has brought us together as a wider community with a shared cause, with the other hand it is putting at risk the infrastructure that define the very best of what it means to be a community in the first place.
I urge you reading this, to look on your parish or town council website and find the small, independent charities in your area and post them a cheque. By giving just a couple of pounds, you may be the difference between them surviving or not.
Ed is a designer, business owner, environmental campaigner and Councillor representing Ash Wharf on Ash Parish Council