Resilience and Compassion through a Pandemic

veteran brings community together during covid

On Monday 23rd March 2020, Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister of the United Kingdom announced the lockdown rules for the UK. and This was the start of something that none of us have ever had to deal with in our lifetime. 

On Wednesday 25th March, our MD “Paul Lewis” a former British Army Sergeant put together a letter with the help of his wife, to post through the doors of each resident within  his small Grove to let them know that he was making a Facebook Group, and a WhatsApp Group to give people channels of support, banter, ideas sharing, generally help people through this stressful time. The Ripley Grove community is made up of young families through to elderly and it was important that they knew they are not alone and have support within their own neighbourhood, a call, a text, a fb group message away.

The reason why…

The reason behind him doing this was having served in many conflicts around the world including Northern Ireland and Iraq, he often had long spells of being away from his family and friends and he  knew what an impact this could have on a person’s well-being and state of mind, the feeling of isolation, fear stress etc.  When Paul was just about to leave the house with the letters, his wife turned to him and said, “Are you sure this will work?”, he returned to her and said, “I can only but try!”.

So, Paul went off around Ripley Grove to deliver the letters, on his way back he started to receive texts from his neighbours offering their names and house number’s.  By the time he got back home, he had 25 names and numbers in his phone requesting to join the group (at least two thirds of everyone living in the small grove). He created the Facebook group and started to get requests to join that as soon as it went live.

Over the course of a few days we started having conversations on both groups on how people have lived in our street for c14 years and did not know many people within the Grove as lives become so busy and folk tend to smile but generally keep themselves to themselves, but surprisingly to Paul and his wife he received so much positive feedback on  ‘what such a  fantastic idea’, to bring people together, re-affirming we are here to help and support each other through these times and beyond. 

Community spirit…

This was fantastic and really helping to make a difference. Throughout this Paul and his wife were working through their own personal challenges.  Paul’s business “Veterans Employment & Training Solutions” had come to and sudden stop of recruitment due to COVID and his wife was being made redundant and no chance of Furlough.

As the days were going by, Paul was racking his brains on other things he could do for the street and his wife came up with a brilliant idea of “Street Bingo”, this is where members of the Grove could sit outside in 2 meters social distanced designated spaces within the Government Rules of 2 Metres apart.  So, Paul put this to the street over WhatsApp and Facebook to see what others thought about this.  He suggested that we play bingo and that the prizes will be donations from the group,  we think that the funniest donations were a toilet rolls and pasta, he went on to purchase bingo tickets and each book of tickets cost  £2:50 and that the money will all go onto a JustGiving Page to raise money for the NHS and The Front Line Carers that he created.  They also came up with The Bonus Ball on a Wednesday and Saturday for £2.00 and who ever won would win a hamper full of goodies, which was being donated by one of the neighbours who is part of a Project called The Real Junk Food Project in Birmingham. 

VE Day and “Street Bingo”

On VE Day the 08th May, the Ripley Grove Residents came out in force (still 2 metres apart) and decorated the Grove with banners and bunting and celebrated with picnics music and of course “Street Bingo”.  They are looking into now celebrating Armed Forces Day on Saturday 27th June.

Paul and his wife set a goal to bring the community together, look out for and care for each other and if possible, for the Grove to raise a £1000 for the NHS, and they are nearly there. What the NHS and key workers have done for us is somewhat remarkable but throughout this Paul and his wife have realised that they are blessed with amazing neighbours / friends within the Ripley Grove Community Group, who knows maybe Bingo will carry on, watch this space.