“YOU may be isolated, but you are not alone”.
That was the overwhelming message from communities right across Co Carlow this week, as people rallied in the fight against Covid-19.
“The feedback and response from the people of Carlow has been tremendous,” said Helen Rothwell, manager of Carlow Volunteer Centre. “Already we have 80 volunteers offering their time, their energy, their commitment, to drive cars, answer phones, go to the shops for people … it’s been incredible.”
Helen remarked that the volunteers came from all walks of life, including many who are currently out of work and now willing to help. Chefs let go in the past week from hotels and restaurants, those from the transport/delivery sector and people with more free time than normal are among the scores of volunteers who have come forward.
“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing … all lovely people willing to help,” said Helen.
“We had one Carlow company, which has temporarily closed, on to us and offering us 20 volunteers to man phones for whatever service needs it,” she added.
Helen stated that the volunteer centre is liaising with the HSE, garda response, Carlow County Council, St Catherine’s Community Services, Alone and all the various state agencies to see where the volunteers are needed most. A plan is expected to be put together in the coming days, so whenever the need comes people are willing to spring into action straightaway.
“I can’t thank the Carlow people enough,” said Helen. “To people out there I would say: please don’t feel you are alone … we may be isolated, but you are not alone. There are people there willing to walk your dogs, go for your messages, go to the pharmacy, deliver you a paper … all the simple things that mean so much at times like this,” added Helen.
That willingness to help has been echoed all over the county, with new community groups emerging and individuals offering to support their neighbours.
In Borris, Mount Leinster Rangers (MLR) was one of the first GAA clubs to come to the aid of its community and set up MLR Community Assistance Group. Volunteers from the club have offered assistance to the elderly, the vulnerable and people in need over the coming weeks.
“Look, I think this should almost be a given. It’s not a big deal and no-one needs a clap on the back, but if you are young, fit and healthy there’s no reason why we couldn’t help,” said Paul Coady, one of the club members who spearheaded the initiative.
“I sent out a text to the senior hurling team and asked for volunteers – people who maybe aren’t working at the moment or maybe have more free time then they normally would, like teachers or students, and asked them if they would put their name forward and volunteer,” explains Paul.
The response has been extremely positive.
“Realistically, we don’t know how much we’ll be needed, but in my own head I feel this is only the start of it. What’s it going to be like in three, four or six weeks’ time? Maybe the 65-year-old who, at the moment is going to the shops or the chemists, may not be able to in two weeks’ time,” he added.
For a community so steeped in sport and their club, Paul reflected on the feelings of many who would normally be back training and gearing up for the season ahead.
“We are brought together as a community through sport. Sport is everything here, but in the context of what’s happened in the last week, that’s puts everything into perspective and sport really isn’t everything. I know lads are frustrated not to be back training, but if sport has to be put on hold for 2020, that’s not the end of the world,” he added.
Molly Kirwan, project manger at Forward Steps Resource Centre, also praised the community spirit evident in Tullow over the past week.
“I will say that Tullow is a great community and there’s a lot of support for people,” said Molly.
Tullow Day Care Centre, the Cairdeas Centre, Tullow Youth Project, Tullow School Completion Programme and Forward Steps have all been lending support, either providing services or a listening voice on the phone.
“Our counsellors are there to talk to people over the phone or help them fill out forms over the phone. We’ve also had a lot of parents on looking for support for things to do with their children and there are lots of volunteers in the community offering help for people,” added Molly.
“We are also offering a lot of support to our Syrian community and there are a lot of resources out there in different languages to help inform people about what’s happening,” she added.
The parishes of Myshall/Dumphea and Clonegal/Kildavin have also set up community volunteer groups and, like so many areas, have been overwhelmed by the response.
“There are special phone lines set up that people can ring 24 hours a day and people have volunteered to person the phone in a rota,” explained Fr Thomas O’Byrne, PP. “We’ve had wonderful support … people volunteering, some to carry the phone, others to run errands and we have counsellors who are willing to respond and follow up if that is required.
“So our hope is that no-one will feel alone or isolated and will have a sense that our community cares and are willing to share the burden that others may have to carry,” said Fr O’Byrne.
The number for Myshall/Drumphea is 087 3637862 and for Clonegal Kildavin it’s 087 7181850.