For many of our communities, the past weeks have brought unprecedented challenge. For so many coping in self-isolation, managing health and wellbeing concerns, or experiencing financial hardship caused as a result of our collective response to this crisis, this experience has no doubt been unsettling, disorienting and isolating.
Yet at the same time this crisis has also illuminated the value and power of cooperation.
Now, more than ever, our communities are stepping up to the plate.
People really are going above and beyond to support each other during these exceptionally challenging times, whether by checking in on vulnerable neighbours, finding ways to show support for essential workers, or volunteering their time or skills. There are a whole range of people stepping forward to play their part – from individuals and families, to community organisations and businesses. And as cooperative councils, we are playing our part to match their skills and passions to volunteer opportunities and community initiatives, harnessing this spirit of cooperation to minimise the challenges for those who are struggling.
In South Tyneside, we know the importance of not just channelling this passion but celebrating it and using it to bring our community further together.
For over a year, we have used our #LoveSouthTyneside social media and social action campaign to promote volunteer opportunities and to celebrate volunteer initiatives and local heroes.
Now, we have launched #ProudtoSupport, which is a whole-partnership campaign to help us recognise and promote local cooperation in the face of the current particularly challenging circumstances.
These may be key workers, such as NHS workers, care workers, GPs, pharmacists, police, fire and rescue service, refuse collectors, cleaners, delivery drivers, workers in contact centres or supermarkets, or anybody else who is playing a role in keeping essential services running or keeping us safe at this time.
Alternatively, it could simply be a community minded resident who has gone the extra mile to keep an eye out for vulnerable neighbours, or a local person who has put a smile on somebody’s face by providing entertainment or artwork or creating an online resource.
We’ve also seen businesses play a part, producing essential equipment to directly support the fight against Covid-19 or to support the local community by volunteering time or donating essentials such as food, toiletries and other essentials to support those shielding.
The basis of the campaign is a simple social media tool, and a simple ask of our community, but we know that when ordinary people’s special efforts are publicly acknowledged and celebrated, not only do they feel appreciated, but they help to inspire others. Each nominee receives a personal letter from the Borough’s First Citizen, thanking them on behalf of each of our 155,000 residents. We also publicly celebrate their stories, raising awareness of all the collective efforts of the South Tyneside community, and will help us all feel all the more connected and supported during these difficult times.
While we are physically apart, #ProudtoSupport is a way to bring us all together, more than ever, as a community.
Councillor Iain Malcolm
Leader, South Tyneside Council