Rye Mutual Aid offers a helping hand
As the pandemic was declared, local people in Rye and surrounding villages acted quickly to set up a network of volunteers to help those in need and the vulnerable in the community. Over 500 people were recruited in the first two weeks of Rye Mutual Aid’s (RMA) existence. The operation now extends over 21 locations within Rye and across the surrounding villages. The areas covered are Rye town plus Beckley, Camber and East Guldeford, Rye Foreign and Playden, Udimore, Brede and Broad Oak, Winchelsea and Winchelsea Beach, Icklesham, Pett and Pett Level, Rye Harbour, Peasmarsh and Westfield.
Each area has two or three coordinators (called dispatchers) who take calls from residents needing help, filter the requests, then pass accepted requests to the volunteers in their local area. Services offered include collecting shopping, posting letters, putting bins out, dog walking, picking up prescriptions and a friendly chat. Many local businesses are also offering services, so the Rye Mutual Aid group wants to act as a last resort for people who do not have any other means of getting help.
Health and safety protocols have been established to ensure that volunteers and recipients of help are protected. The group is lucky in that one of the volunteers has a Masters of Science in Public Health and Disease Control and has worked for the World Health Organisation (WHO). She has been advising on best practice and given live demonstrations to the volunteer force.
Other members of the community have rallied around to help the new group, including Colonel Anthony Kimber of the Rye Emergency Action Community Team (REACT) and local business and community partners include supermarkets, chemists, charities such as the Food Bank and other organisations.
Since 15 March, when RMA was set up, over 800 tasks have been carried out. Some examples can be found below.
In Tilling Green, Mrs Brown’s first great grandaughter was born during lockdown. The beautiful Aida Rose Elizabeth was born on Friday 24th April. RMA volunteers have been able to assist Mrs Brown with posting gifts to baby Aida during this difficult time when they can’t be together.
Mollie who is volunteering in the Broad Oak/Brede area writes:
“As a 20 year old who was furloughed from work I suddenly found that I had a lot more spare time on my hands and as someone who also gets bored easily I knew I had to do something with it. When the Rye Mutual Aid leaflet came through the door I knew it was perfect. As a volunteer for the Broad Oak / Brede area I have successfully completed four tasks with hopefully many more to come. My first was a shopping trip for an elderly lady. I collected her shopping from Tesco when doing my own and delivered it to her door on the way home. She was really sweet and super appreciative for the help. Seeing the happiness on her face is my motivation for volunteering. The happiness over loo roll was something we both laughed about.
“I’ve also distributed updated leaflets to Broad Oak, delivered a prescription to Sedlescombe surgery and collected an emergency prescription from Westfield surgery to be delivered back to Brede.
“Although the tasks seem small, to these residents it’s huge. Not being able to get shopping or prescriptions due to isolation worries many people, however it must be a great relief knowing there are those in your area who are more than happy to help in any way they can!”
Sue is another volunteer and dispatcher in the Broad Oak/Brede area. She wears her face mask (as do all volunteers) when undertaking RMA tasks. She has got into the swing of managing up to four shops at one time, on a weekly basis and is helping many residents who are shielding and can't get to the shops as they normally would.
Bruni who is another of the dispatchers for Broad Oak/Brede and also serves on the RMA central team writes: “we have found ourselves fairly busy with a population of around 2,000 residents, many of who are either over 70 or find themselves having to shelter for 12 weeks. Having volunteers like Mollie and Sue who are willing and able to help is fantastic. A quick message out to our WhatsApp group means we can quickly and easily find volunteers who can complete a task for us that day. Our volunteers have always been very quick to help and friendly and I know the residents she is helping are so very grateful."
The Rye Mutual Aid website can be found at http://www.ryemutualaid.org.
It contains a lot of useful information including the list and contact details for volunteers, services offered in Rye, including food delivery, description of the protocols used and a fundraising page. The lists of volunteers can also be found in the window of Adams, the shop in Tilling Green (CHECK) and at various other locations around town. Each house in Rye and the villages that RMA serves, also should have received a leaflet with details of how to obtain help. However RMA is very keen to ensure that everyone who may need its services, knows how to access them. If you have a neighbour or you know someone who may need RMA help, please make sure they know how to do so. RMA is here to help. Please help them spread the word.