'We are here to help if they need it': Man sets up community team to help vulnerable people

An entrepreneur from Dublin has established a Covid-19 community response team to help vulnerable people in south Dublin.
'We are here to help if they need it': Man sets up community team to help vulnerable people
James McCann

An entrepreneur from Dublin has established a Covid-19 community response team to help vulnerable people in south Dublin.

James McCann, founder of PR agency ClearStory International, has organised the team to help people in Sallynoggin.

Mr McCann first set up his team three weeks ago and has seen more than 25 volunteers join him.

Together, the Community Response Team has been checking in on around 1,300 homes.

One of the first priorities for the team has been to get food to vulnerable residents.

“Many of the supermarkets' phone systems are jamming up and delivery slots have become scarce meaning a lot of older people in the community are struggling to get necessities so the first priority is ensuring we can get them food deliveries,” James told us.

“In order to keep our volunteers safe and out of the supermarkets themselves, we've liaised with our local Supervalu in Killiney to have a call back service for vulnerable people here in Sallynoggin.

“If they are having trouble securing orders, they can get in touch with one of our local volunteers and we liaise with the team in Supervalu to add that person to their call back service that guarantees their order and delivery.”

They have also been helping with other things, even ones that may seem small.

“We had a 91-year-old man last week whose TV went out,” said James.

“It was his only company and his service provider couldn't get out to him for a week so we arranged for a volunteer to give him a call and troubleshoot the problem with him.

“It took 30 minutes but the problem was fixed and he got his TV back.

It sounds silly, but when its the only thing you have and you can't leave the house and nobody can come in, it can make a big difference, just having the company of the TV.

“We also had a woman who suffered from MS having computer issues. Again, it was the only thing she had in the house to keep her sane so we got a volunteer who was an IT expert to give her a call and got the problem fixed.”

James said the team are doing what they can to comply with government restrictions and social distancing rules.

“We're doing our best to ensure we don't have to come in direct contact with anyone.

“Any shopping requests go directly to our local Supervalu through our point of contact for callbacks and they take care of the deliveries.

“If we need to organise anything to be picked up and delivered we ensure we keep social distancing measures in mind.

While we haven't had to do many housecalls so far our volunteers have been equipped with masks, hand sanitiser, and disinfectant wipes.

“We want to reduce the possibility of contact as much as possible with our approach.”

James said the response has been “brilliant” with the team of volunteers having a variety of skill sets.

He said that different skills “helps us respond to whatever requests and problems we get.”

He said they distributed leaflets with contact numbers as many vulnerable people in the community “don't have access to the internet”.

James said that a lot of the volunteers are recently out of work and he says having something to focus on helps the volunteers.

“A lot of those who've volunteered with us have been temporarily laid off which is horrible to hear but I think it certainly helps with their mindset that they can do something practical to help people in isolation during all of this.”

James added: “We think the volume of queries will go up over the coming weeks and in some cases, it could be just to keep people company over the phone for a few minutes a day.

“It's a different type of fight that most crises bring about but it helps knowing that we're doing something proactive to keep people safe and well during all of this.”

He said they can’t predict what people are going to need through isolation.

But James said: “We're doing what we can and just letting people know we are here to help if they need it.”


Meanwhile, the Government

Read More:

The scheme aims to link local and national government with the community and voluntary sectors.

The purpose of the Call is “to coordinate community activity, direct community assistance to where it is needed, and marshal the volunteering energy of the country.”

The immediate focus of the scheme will be the elderly and most vulnerable “to make sure everyone is looked after.”

Speaking at the launch, Mr Coveney said: “We are all finding it very strange to be home and to be keeping away from our family and community.

“But those that are vulnerable or in need of a bit of help need to know that they are not alone.

“The government is tapping into the reach of our local authorities in every corner of Ireland as well as the extraordinary dedication of a legion of voluntary groups and charities.

“For those who need some help, it is there for you.”

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