Originally named Pewsey Community Coronavirus Assistance (PCCA), our organisation was established in February 2020 by current director Phil Brady. PCCA began as a grassroots response to our local community’s need for help at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK.
Our Humble Beginnings
Our volunteer base…
Phil recruited a small group of local volunteers to help create a system that enabled hundreds of volunteers to support over a thousand individuals who the government had identified as vulnerable and advised to isolate.
Spanning a 7km radius, the area was split into nine zones with each zone having volunteers, organised by a zone coordinator, and each service managed by a service coordinator.
Spreading the word…
Thousands of leaflets were designed, printed and delivered to every household on our interactive map. An interactive website and phone bank was set up receiving thousands of requests for help each week along with social media pages to keep everyone informed of our services and activities.
A Fantastic Response…
With a slick sign up process we recruited hundreds of ‘boots on the ground’ volunteers within hours of sign up opening. Volunteer roles included street marshals, food and meds teams, shoppers, telephone operators, a library team, a tech team, an admin team, fundraisers and delivery teams.
PCCA delivered food supplies and life saving medication to the doorstep, so those in need could stay at home and shield rather than spend all day in a quarter-mile long queue outside the pharmacy or mix with others in the supermarket.
We set up a special information and advice line for those who were unsure of current guidelines or financial help available.
Life saving medication deliveries…
We teamed up with our local pharmacy who were struggling with staff shortages, resulting in eight -hour-long queues outside their premises on the high street as panic set in at the beginning of the pandemic. We set up a round the clock office with a meds team taking calls and emails from people ordering their prescriptions. We’d then pick up their prescriptions and deliver to their doorstep every day. Our marshalling team triaged the queue outside the pharmacy allowing those who were advised to shield to go home and wait for our delivery drivers to drop off their prescriptions.
We sent food boxes out to individuals who fell through the gap of government financial help in lockdown.
We ran thousands of daily shopping errands. Our phone team, shoppers and delivery volunteers ensured those who had to isolate never went without food and household supplies.
We recruited a team of chefs, cooking nutritious hearty meals which we delivered to those in need.
Our Fruit For Schools initiative saw delicious, novel, fresh fruit delivered to our schools each week and our Free Kids Meals and Children’s Breakfast Plan fed primary-aged school children who would usually receive free school meals in term time.
We also baked and delivered cakes to over 600 of the most vulnerable members of our community on the 70th anniversary of VE day and gave them all some bunting to put up in their windows to lift their spirits in lockdown.
Active minds and friends…
A click, collect and doorstep delivery library was set up so people could order books, films, games or puzzles either online or over the phone and have them delivered safely to their door.
A telephone befriending system was set up which allowed those isolating with no other support network to chat to one of our volunteers over the phone. We had systems to identify those living alone with no immediate support who desperately needed help and acted on them accordingly.
Our volunteers also helped with errands and dog walking.
As pandemic restrictions allowed more freedom, we created a Covid secure environment to house an outdoor friendship cafe and free community market which allowed our VIPs (vulnerable isolating persons) to step out for a friendly chat with new friends over tea, coffee and cake and go home afterwards with a bag of nutritious fruit and veg from our market stall.
We ran map reading courses encouraging exercise in the open countryside.
Plans for a community farm were underway which would see those in isolation grow their own food and share with the community. Due to ongoing search for land these plans are still underway. An idea is to grow food on our bus.
Learning new skills…
We also created opportunities for our VIPs to connect and learn new skills with IT training which allowed people to learn how to use email and video conferencing software to speak to friends and family from a distance.
Creative Communities was then set up and a series of outdoor creative activities, arts trails, music, dance and poetry events were held around the vale bringing all 9 schools, preschools and local businesses together.
A thirty foot high Christmas tree was donated by a local farmer, which we erected in the centre of Pewsey at Christmas time 2020. Decorations were made by school children and donated by the wider community. We made a wishing wall in front of the tree for people to attach their thoughts and wishes to. Father Christmas came with a donkey and some goats from a local therapeutic care farm and gave presents to the children in a grotto we built especially for the big man himself. We held a Christmas market and invited local crafts people to sell their wares. Lights were provided by the carnival committee and we gave away mulled wine and mince pies as bands played carols, while a lantern parade arrived at the tree for the tree naming ceremony – which was voted on through social media and ‘The Spirit of Pewsey’ was born. We repeated the Christmas extravaganza the following year.
Spring to Life…
In March 2021, a new initiative ‘Spring To Life’ was created. Children from our schools together with local artists and poets created artwork which was displayed around the village of Pewsey in shop windows, river banks and nature reserves.
We had a flashmob line dance troupe perform a surprise opening ceremony outside the Co-op and drum workshops in the Scotchel Nature Reserve.
All of this enabled safe, spatially distanced social connection, using creativity to release the grip of tension that the procession of lockdowns had on us all.
As the pandemic evolved, the lifting of some restrictions gave us all more freedom, so we were able to reduce some of the services we offered in lockdown.
Through this vital work we have recognised just how severe people’s suffering has become. We now help to fight food waste, food poverty, malnutrition, loneliness, isolation fatigue and cultural deprivation through our radical action plan in the heart of our community.