… is an informal network of local volunteers established in a hurry over a few days starting on Sunday March 15, 2020. The idea was to make contact with neighbours by slipping a note through their door offering to help with shopping, collecting prescriptions and so on, if people were staying at home.
The note named a contact or contacts in the same street or neighbourhood. Contacts gave their phone numbers including a home phone number (landline) if possible.
We now have a network of contacts for the whole village of Aberlady and the surrounding smaller communities.
Other volunteers are acting as ‘gophers’ to fetch and carry as needed.
The system operates through two Whats App groups: one for general chat, ideas and comments, and the other dedicated specifically to ‘Requests for Help’.
Helpers go cashless!
It quickly became obvious that handling cash was going to be a problem because a) there was a chance of infection, b) people staying home would have difficulty getting hold of cash and c) there was a possibility of some villain with a stripy jumper and a stocking on his head abusing the system.
We decided to go cashless, backed by the funds of the Aberlady Gala, whose treasurer and chair were behind the idea. Thanks loads, guys!
No one who needs help will be asked for money: if they wish, they can pay online by bank transfer, but otherwise we will just keep an account and sort it out later, when this whole epidemic thing finally blows over.
Guidance for Helpers
1. Taking requests for help
Requests for help come in (usually) by phone, when the person who needs help calls their local contact.
Make it clear that we will not accept cash from the people we are helping. This might be quite a delicate situation for our contact people, but you have to make sure people are not put off asking for help because it looks like charity. Reassure them that if they can’t pay us back via online banking, then we will keep an account and they can pay when it’s all over.
You should immediately post details of what is needed on the ‘Requests for Help’ group and someone will volunteer to fulfil the request.
2. Fulfilling requests
It’s important to note that our contact people do not have to fulfil every request themselves.
We are also liaising with East Lothian Council’s resilience team and they have asked that we keep a log of who is fulfilling a request, and when. All you need to do is state on the ‘Requests for Help’ group when you are going on a help mission, and again when you complete it. In return for this small piece of bureaucracy, helpers get extra insurance cover.
3. It’s not about the money
When you pay for someone’s shopping, keep the receipt in an envelope. If you are shopping for several different households, have an envelope for each household; or make a note on each receipt of who it’s for.
Helpers who have paid for shopping will be paid back from our (the Gala’s) bank account by Sam Robertson, who is treasurer of the Gala: send a photo of the receipt and your bank details, and Sam will pay you back the same day.
People we help can, if they wish, pay us back through online banking, by bank transfer: details of our bank account are available on the Whats App group or directly from Sam Robertson.
Update: if the person you are shopping for would like to pay you back directly using online banking, that’s fine. You won’t need to send a photo of the receipt to Sam but you would be wise to keep it safe in an envelope so that the person you have been shopping for can collect it eventually.
Update : collecting prescriptions
We have been told that the pharmacy at Gullane expects that if a volunteer is picking up a prescription for someone, the volunteer will bring written authorisation from that person. However, we do not think that passing written notes around is a good idea, particularly since some of the people in isolation will be infectious.
We’ve found that if the person you’re helping phones ahead, that works too.
We will keep monitoring this situation. Please let the group know immediately if you have problems picking up a prescription for someone. Thanks!
Samantha and Fraser Robertson
Mobile 07920 779750