Amid all the uncertainty that comes with the developing situation of Covid-19, it is easy to understand the many anxious and scared responses, but West Coasters have risen to the challenge.
Our Prime Minister told us in a recent press conference,
We have never closed our country down before”.
There are many unknowns for all of us and that can be uncomfortable. However, the discomfort is shared and has rekindled a sense of community that may have dwindled in normal times.
The West Coast was the last region to have any confirmed cases of the virus. Sadly however it was also the first New Zealand region to experience a fatality.
Even before this event, there were discussions about closing off the three access highways to all but essential supply trucks. This action would essentially make the West Coast an island of its own for a time.
Rolling up sleeves to serve
As in other communities throughout New Zealand and the world, Coasters are choosing to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in.
A group of volunteers have organised to provide support to those in the Westland District who are most vulnerable.
Participants are screened for their health status and resources they might offer. Rosters are being set up for people to obtain and deliver essential supplies such as food.
Free food stalls are popping up at people’s gateways and excess in-house entertainment supplies like puzzles have become a community shared resource.
Residents are finding new and novel ways to connect with each other socially while maintaining physical distance.
One resident took it on themselves to organise a bear hunt. Don’t fret. No animals were harmed in the making of this production.
Many places are doing it and locals are called upon to hide teddy bears on their properties that could be seen from the street. Individuals and small family groups walk or drive around to find as many bears as they can, then share their findings for all to see.
A similar group was organised in Greymouth to serve the Grey District. A local teenager who co-facilitated last year’s School Strike for Climate Change in Greymouth also put her hand up to help bring in a teenage volunteer workforce to help out.
Led by two community-minded theatre producers including a local surgeon, and in consultation with Civil Defence Response, this community-driven initiative is being careful to maintain infection controls.
It provides an appreciated boost to Red Cross’ meals on wheels services which is also upscaling as volunteers come forward to help.
South Island residents are being called on to Adopt a Health Worker by one Facebook group. Participants opt to check in with one local health worker regularly to see how they are doing in this climate of heightened stress.
Some are cooking meals to be frozen for later reheating or even offering to provide childcare for those who need it.
Power of the internet to do good
All of this stems from the power of connection provided by the internet. The internet is often condemned as a tool that isolates us while surrounded by people.
It has found a new niche from this unprecedented worldwide phenomenon. People are choosing to learn new ways to meet their needs, as well as those of customers, clients, family and wider community.
In a time when world-sized doom and gloom dominates the press, it can be tough to remember that it is these grass roots initiatives that make all the difference to individuals.
A deliberate action to help others connect or just be happy can shift a person’s whole day. Many are revelling in the high quality humorous memes that are flooding the internet. In times of high stress, a wee giggle can be a powerful gift.
While larger cities have had the benefit of services such as UberEats or other ways to remotely connect customers, these have not yet been adopted by most regional towns.
All of a sudden we see an uprising of small businesses innovating to provide home delivery or remotely taking orders to be collected. Local printers are providing discounted printing of Covid-19 warning signs.
Food vendors are modifying their business model to meet residents’ reduced mobility and stores are providing delivery runs where none existed before.
These seemingly small changes are providing businesses and their customers with an opportunity to discover new economies of scale that may have a larger positive effect over time. Entrepreneurs are provided with new opportunities to create future markets.
Many of us are also given the chance to work from home when that wasn’t an option before. We get to take time to enjoy our homes and families. We are left to wonder what a post-Covid-19 world might look like.
Take a moment to think about your own self-isolation bubble. There are many things that are out of your control right now.
There are also many things that you can choose to influence.
What are some positive innovations that have flourished in your community?
What might you do yourself to make one person’s day a little bit better?
How could you make a tough situation just that little bit more comfortable for your neighbour or community?
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