The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)
The kindness of our communities in these extraordinary times
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me: ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Known to a generation as Mr Rogers, these words from the children’s TV show host could not be more poignant in the face of Covid-19.
As the virus grips the world, it can be difficult to find shreds of kindness amid panic buying and misinformation.
It would seem the entire region has pulled together, though, with community spirit flourishing in the face of fear.
From small businesses providing free grocery delivery, to people offering to walk dogs or mind the children of NHS workers, help is very much at hand.
We caught up with a handful of individuals determined to make a difference.
Student nurse Robyn Ward is kept busy due to her placement in Fraserburgh, and commutes from Torry for each shift.
But that hasn’t stopped the 21-year-old going one step further in her mission to help others.
She set up Aberdeen City Mutual Aid, and the Facebook page attracted hundreds of members within days.
A small army of volunteers has been recruited, and a phone line has even been set up for those struggling with social isolation.
“One of my friends had shared the organisation’s (Covid-19 Mutual Aid) national page on Facebook,” said Robyn.
“I thought it was a brilliant idea so I checked their list of local groups to try to get involved. I realised there wasn’t one specifically for Aberdeen city so I decided to start one.
“It has just grown from there; people started coming forward offering their support and services.
“I don’t know what I was expecting when I started the group, as I wasn’t sure it would take off.
“I never expected the community to respond the way it has.
“It has been absolutely incredible, the support people are offering to the cause.
“I feel there is still a lot of kindness in the community.
“From what I have seen, so many people are willing to assist others.”
Small business owner Elizabeth Brown has been hit by cancellations, having originally delivered boxes of homemade goods across the Inverness area.
She also held cooking classes, which she has been forced to call off altogether.
“My business is going to suffer, there is no doubt about it,” said Elizabeth.
“People have cancelled orders and I can’t even buy flour to make bread.
“We aren’t well off but we aren’t struggling, either.
“I consider myself lucky and now I’ve got some time on my hands, I thought it should go to good use.
“I know there are a lot of folk scared to go out or don’t know how to cook, etc.
“So I’ve delivered a few things to people who have got in touch, and picked up bits of shopping.
“I think it’s our duty to help when we can. “I was chatting to a 96-year-old gentleman, and I asked him what he thought.
“He said the last time he had seen anything like this was when he was a pilot in the war.
“He said people do irrational things out of fear, it’s fight or flight.
“When things return to normal, although it will be a new kind of normal, I’d like to think we’ll have learnt something.”
For Sam Robson, Covid-19 could see her return to the NHS, having stepped away to become medical director of Temple Clinic in Aberdeen.
She is hopeful that the move could encourage fellow colleagues in the world of aesthetics to consider following suit.
“I studied medicine in Aberdeen and I became a GP in 1997,” said Sam.
“I came out of the NHS in 2014 but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use a stethoscope.
“I can imagine that the clinic will get quieter, and realistically we won’t be taking on new clients.
“I’ve been in touch with NHS Grampian to offer my services, although I appreciate that training will be needed.
“They said I was the first person who had phoned them; I hope more people will get in touch.
“I feel so much better for taking positive action, I really think we owe it to society.
“I have no idea what I’ll be doing, but I’m ready and waiting.
“Once you remove people from their panic, there’s still kindness out there.”
Nineteen-year-old Becca Hammell is making sure some of the most vulnerable people in the community don’t go without by delivering care packages.
Becca, who lives in Cove, decided to put together packages last year, after realising that people do not always have easy access to basic hygiene products.
Together with her mum, Angela, she has delivered to hundreds of people, and Covid-19 has seen a huge surge in demand.
“If you can’t get out, these packages can be a real lifeline,” said Becca.
“I just wanted to do something to help people, I never thought it would grow this big.
“We now deliver 60 to 100 packages each month, free of charge, and people donate products when they can.
“We’re here for anyone who needs us.”