In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we started a telephone befriending project to keep our isolated Marmalade members connected.
When lockdown started, many of our Marmalade members were advised to 'shield' and not to leave their homes without much warning. With no one else to turn to for help, and without access to the internet or online shopping services, it was a scary time for our members who were already struggling with loneliness and isolation.
Our members are like family to us and we wanted to be there for them during this difficult time. Straight away, we got in touch with our 200+ members to identify needs and to reassure them that were there. Through these conversations, we were able to support many individuals and work with other local agencies to provide supplies. The Red Cross, Bristol Community Transport, The National Food Service and The Plough Inn collectively delivered hundreds of food parcels to those who had no funds at home and who were unable to go outside.
For those who had no family, friends or neighbours available to for help, Marmalade Trust was a lifeline to some of the most vulnerable and isolated members in our region. We put a call out to our community asking for volunteers, and we were overwhelmed with the response, and before long, we had around 50 DBS checked volunteers linked to companions. Our wonderful volunteers provided a form of comfort, connection and community to our members during this challenging time, and found volunteering to be a rewarding and enriching experience as well.
Not just practical support
As well as providing our members with practical support, it was really important to us to make sure we were bringing some joy during such a challenging time. We delivered boxes of art supplies donated by the Children's Scrapstore in Bristol, posters hand-made by children from Victoria Park Primary School, and care packages full of goodies from Waitrose (delivered by Community Transport).
Gifts of Joy
One of our members lost her only friend to coronavirus and was feeling alone. Another was keeping herself busy with knitting, but ran out of wool and couldn’t go to the shops. Another had been in hospital and was going to come home to an empty house.⠀
We wanted to be able to send little gifts to let our members to let when know we’re thinking of them and that they’re not alone in this. We set up a fundraiser on Facebook asking for donations which would go directly to funding gifts. It was an opportunity to come together, even when we had to stay apart. We were blown away with the generosity of our community, and we were delighted to raise over £510 in a matter of weeks!
We partnered with a wonderful Bristol-based florist - Floriography by Vera - who put together and delivered beautiful bunches of flowers. We also sent gifts like a watercolour sketchpad, paints, wool, potted plants, colouring pencils, colouring books, magazines and books.
Companionship case studies
Margaret, aged 97 yrs old, lives in Bristol, she has no family and usually manages with support from her neighbour who is in his late 80s. Prior to the pandemic, they used to go for daily walks, to the cafe and food shopping together. Both were required to suddenly shield, therefore her companionship and shopping support stopped.
When we called her as lockdown began, she reported that she "only had one egg left to eat". We immediately provided urgent shopping supplies, and helped to set her up with an online shopping delivery which will now continue. She was matched with a 26-year-old volunteer companion called Mia. Mia has been calling weekly and having long chats, some have gone on for 2 hours! Mia visited Margaret and had a socially distanced afternoon tea with her in her garden.
In April, during one of her welfare calls, Margaret said her glasses had broken and she was unable to watch TV. We collected her glasses and took them to be mended, in the meantime we used some of our funds to send her a bunch of flowers to cheer her up. She has not seen anyone during the past 4 months other than her companion, shopping delivery driver and her neighbour from a distance. She told us “the long chats are lovely and make me feel much better – like someone is looking out for me”.
As part of this project, we have also sent 50 cards made by local primary school children, various 'Gifts of Joy' including jigsaw puzzles, wool, art materials, potted plants and bunches of flowers. We have partnered with Bristol Community Transport to deliver food items and also with the Children's Scrapstore in St Werburghs to provide art packs to help people keep occupied at home.
“Thank you so much for my lovely card from 6-year-old Issy and some lovely gifts to help keep me amused. I have spent a delightful morning 'colouring-in' with my new art materials, it’s been so relaxing. We are travelling through such difficult times but with such good people like yourselves, we will be able to come through this. Marmalade has brought joy into my life, I am so proud to know you. You are the Marmalade Angels and my heart and thanks go out to you.” - Jean, 84 yrs old.
Summer Tea Party
We were delighted to be able to host a physically distanced tea party for some of our most isolated Marmalade Trust members in August. Transport was provided by our friends at Community Transport, and one of our volunteers, Blanche, hosted the event in her beautiful garden.
One of our guests, Jenny, told us: "The tea was delicious and chatting with you all was such a delight after isolation. It was such an enjoyable occasion, I returned home singing in the car!"