'End of lockdown is not the end': Mutual Aid group vows to continue
- Credit: Kat Waterhouse
During the past 15 months, thousands of volunteers have kept Brentwood ticking over.
From shopping for elderly neighbours and collecting their medication to delivering the vaccine, people from all walks of life have worked tirelessly for their community.
Kat Waterhouse founded community-led movement Brentwood Mutual Aid in March last year, and since then she and her group of volunteers have helped hundreds of people each week.
The group recently reached a milestone of supporting 8,000 people, and it isn't about to pack its bags.
Kat said: “What we have realised is the end of lockdown is not the end of the needs of our community.
“Instead, we are shifting what we offer to what residents need, as restrictions ease.”
Having been locked inside their homes for over a year, Kat explained many people now felt anxious and overwhelmed about the prospect of life returning to "normal".
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“We’re trying to build their confidence back up, and offer that emotional support as well,” she added.
Brentwood Mutual Aid has 1,000 registered volunteers within the borough, who regularly support residents, as well as a 2,500-strong Facebook group which helps with donations and spreading the word.
One of its key focuses was a befriender project, matching up isolated people with volunteers - initally over the phone, but now evolving into walks together.
It also has volunteer call handlers, who man the phone lines seven days a week and post requests for donations or help in dedicated ward WhatsApp groups.
Kat, who put her dog accessory business on hold for several months to run the group, said there had been ups and downs to the past year.
“I could probably write a book about the wild and hilarious things we’ve done this year,” she said.
“But there have been so many incidents of the most horrendous situations that we have helped people with, so many of whom we’re still helping now.”