Coronavirus update: Thousands of “Street level” WhatsApp groups set up as communities pull together

A 3D-printed Whatsapp logo is seen in front of displayed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) sign in this illustration taken March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

“Street level” messenger groups are springing up across the UK as communities forge new relationships to help each other through the Coronavirus self-isolation crisis.

Messenger apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are being conscripted to connect whole streets worried about how to survive self-isolation and loneliness. Young and old are uniting to help those without and those needing help and support at their time of need.

“A neighbour set up a group and we now have 10 of 12 houses on the street subscribed”, explains Jonathan Ratcliffe who lives on Windermere Avenue, Menston, Yorkshire.

Ratcliffe who is currently running national office agency Offices.co.uk from home, has been in self-isolation since Monday juggling work and family life. “We haven’t been to the shops this week, life is testing let’s say – John down the road asked on WhatsApp if anyone needed anything, and 30 minutes later we had bread, bananas and paracetamol – it really helps moral”, explains Ratcliffe.

Being able to draw on neighbours for help and social interaction is going to become a hallmark of the efforts needed to get the country through the next 12 weeks.

“No one knows where this is going and who might need help. We have a 10-week-old baby with a heart condition, and so we are being extra careful. My neighbours help now will be paid back twice over when we are out of isolation– it’s lovely knowing that there is support on our doorstep should we need it”, adds Ratcliffe.

Other groups have sprung up locally in Menston supporting streets and even whole estates.

One such group has been set up covering Moorfield Avenue in Menston by resident David Williams: “We are in the process of setting up a WhatsApp group to cover our street (Moorfield Avenue). We started by dropping a note through everyone’s door, so they knew who to text to join the group.  We are then identifying those who need to self-isolate and pairing them up with people who can help out so people can self-organise as much as possible but also stay in touch as things develop”.

Zoe Edwards who lives in the centre of the village added, “We have done similar on our road although tricky when some people don’t use or have WhatsApp. We are trying to keep in touch with those people separately”.

The Windermere Avenue group:

  • 10 houses have joined out of 12
  • 18 people have joined the group
  • Age ranges from 38 to 75
  • One house currently in self-isolation

Resident Alison Wilson in Menston is using the platform to forward-plan a big party to celebrate the community spirit locally in Menston “Once this is over, we need a massive big street/village party to cheer ourselves up and thank everyone for their kindness and community spirit”.

“Creating support groups now is really important. Being able to ask for help should you need it is going to be a lifeline for many people, young and old – the love and support I’ve seen on our street for neighbours has been humbling”, concludes Ratcliffe.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

Jonathan Ratcliffe has recently spoken about his experiences in self-isolation, running business Offices.co.uk whilst working from home with 3 kids (happy to chat on 07894 159932).

Image credit: The Star

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