We are very grateful to Rena for sharing her story with us and joining in on the #SameStormDifferentBoat conversation. A huge thank you also to Laura, Corra Community Co-ordinator in Dunterlie, who worked alongside Rena to share this wonderful community story, but also gave us an insight into working with communities in Dunterlie, during the pandemic and beyond.
Getting alongside communities: Laura
Eleven crochet Rainbows, two sets of mitts, thirty items (canula covers and hats) for the premature baby unit, Aran cardigans with matching hats, over 400 reusable face coverings. Just the beginning of a seemingly endless list of items Rena McGuire, a volunteer in Dunterlie, is responsible for creating since lockdown began. Not only that, Rena has managed to achieve her level seven Community Achievement award with the support of East Renfrewshire Council’s Community Learning Development team.
Throughout lockdown Rena has not only produced enough woollen items to clothe and protect half of East Renfrewshire, she has continued to support people in Dunterlie using social media and the strong connections she has built up over the years. She has been linking families in with services, providing information and advocating on their behalf.
Under normal circumstances Rena spends most of her time in and around Dunterlie Resource Centre. Each day has a focus, there are groups to run, meetings to attend and places to be. Rena and I often stop for a chat and a coffee in between times. Anyone is welcome to join us for a blether round a wee table in the corner of an office or amongst the debris in the aftermath of a group or community event.
Due to coronavirus, the way we all connect with people in our communities has had to change. With many public and community spaces closed, the hustle and bustle of groups and community events seem like a distant memory. Coffee and chat around wee tables a thing of the past, at least for the moment.
When we met (virtually) to discuss putting a blog together Rena summed up the experience of lockdown with a simple phrase,
“Every day is like a Sunday.”
Rena shared with me some of her reflections on life in lockdown, what has been happening in Dunterlie and what the future might hold.
Supporting each other
“I have been keeping in touch with people on the phone and people have been contacting me on Facebook. I have been getting people added to the list (for support with food and prescriptions) and trying to make sure folk don’t get missed out. At the beginning of this lots of people had no shopping in. Because of the Foodshare, there is a good relationship with the council and we have details for the people who usually come along and get a bag on a Friday. We were able to help get the food hub up and running, we gave the first 50 or so names for their list and it just went from there.”
“Although I spend half my life within the community with four groups on weekly within the Centre and being on the board of other organisations, I have settled in very well in lockdown. Lost out on two holidays this year and had to cancel Safety in the Park (an annual safety and well-being event which welcomes thousands of primary six pupils from schools across East Renfrewshire) in our 21st year. However, hoping we can catch up around May time and hopefully continue in August 2021.”
“I have been using zoom to be a part of meetings – the first few weeks were quiet then things started up again. It is new to us all.”
“We have been getting together with the family every Thursday for a quiz – it’s a good laugh. Some are in Alloa others down in England.”
“The hardest thing about this is the isolation – feeling excluded. But we have to accept that this is outwith our control.
“All my other organisations outside my home are all still closed. I am not alone out there, we have no choice. However, it’s now time to see when the centre opens for Foodshare and other social groups. Many users live on their own, some shielding, which may have affected their mental health. Time to get them together, and reduce their isolation in our new way forward.”
Knit, knit, knitting…509 items
“Depending on TV is just not an option for me. I think I have become a bit addicted to knitting and crochet. I have lost count of how many rainbows. I will need to count up all of the things I have done.”
(Which she did, there were 509 hand crafted items at the last official count!)
Hope for what is coming next
Rena mentioned that there are lots of things she is usually too busy to do that she has managed to catch up with around the house and also described a patience she has found as a result of being locked down.
“The numbers are showing signs of reducing so hopefully we will be out of this sooner rather than later. We don’t know what we will find on the other side. The generations are learning together. There hasn’t always been much respect but through this we have been thinking of others as well as ourselves.”
Dunterlie, is one of the communities Corra works alongside. You can find out more about Getting Alongside Communities by clicking here.
At Corra, we believe every voice matters. When people are heard, power shifts towards them and they can help create the change that matters to them.
If you want to join in on the conversation and you feel your voice is not being heard, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we can have a chat.