Looking back over lock-down

‘Looking back over Lock-Down’ – a personal story from our Outreach Worker Zoe

“The last six months have been a challenge for a lot of people in one way or another; home-schooling, working from home, being furloughed, being alone, needing to be alone and much more.

I see myself as one of the ‘lucky ones’, I was able to continue to work from home while my furloughed partner took over home-schooling. This enabled us to continue our lives in a close to ‘normal’ way. Unfortunately that has not been the case for everyone, lockdown has highlighted just how important face to face meetings, the ability to ‘pop to the shops’ and getting online really is.

One of our Timebank South West members – Amanda – has had a very different lockdown experience to me and I wanted to share it,  just to remind ourselves of what we take for granted in our everyday lives.

Imagine living on your own in Plymouth with no close family members, you go to work a couple of days a week and are happy to have the contact with your colleagues, you go to a Timebank social once a week to keep in touch with your Timebank ‘family’, you often pop to the library to check your emails and organise your ‘online’ life, you don’t have a mobile so the calls you make are in the evenings when its free to call.

Now imagine all of those things are taken away, no work, no socials, no internet. You begin by thinking it’s ok, ‘I can get through this’ but after a week or so with only a couple of telephone calls you begin to realise what a lonely and isolated time this is going to be.

You get a letter telling you to renew your car insurance online, only you can’t – the library is closed and you do not have any means to get online at home. Your sander breaks so your home improvements (something that has been instrumental in keeping you busy) have to stop as you can’t get out to replace it. You try to make calls to numbers of people who you think may be able to help but the calls go unanswered or just don’t connect. Everywhere you look are adverts for the things you need only, no number to call, just email/website addresses. How frustrating!!

Worry takes over, car insurance, breakdown cover, tax returns all begin to haunt you in your sleep, how are you going to action them if you cannot get online?
You begin to ask yourself “Am I the only person who isn’t online?” The answer of course is no, sadly Amanda wasn’t the only one in that situation, and as a rule she wouldn’t have felt the weight of not being online so heavily, but in these elongated circumstances the feeling of isolation was magnified as it would have been for many others too.

Luckily for Amanda one of the things she did have was Timebank. Weekly calls with the outreach worker in the area meant that the online issues were taken care of, through exchanges of hours Amanda was able to get her car breakdown cover organised, a replacement sander was purchased and delivered to her door and items she was in need of selling were listed on Gumtree. She was also able to keep in touch with fellow Timebank members through evening and weekend calls breaking up the monotony of the long days at home alone.

The support and camaraderie of Timebank members throughout the COVID19 lock-down of 2020 has been truly inspirational, being part of a group where members from across the city are willing to be there for you in your time of need is really something I am sincerely proud of.

To be able to continue to work with our wonderful Timebank family and help keep people feeling positive, connected and valued is more important than ever. Timebanking has proven to be, in my eyes, a key element of getting through these last six months. It has been great to stay in touch with members over zoom chats – with quizzes and silly hat competitions, chat over the telephone – providing a ‘real person’ to talk to when there are no other options, ‘wave-by’ – when walking past a member’s house, giving them a shout and having a quick chat over the wall! Proud to be a Timebank South West worker and member“.

Amanda says:

“Firstly I would like to say a big thank you to Zoe, the outreach worker in Efford for going above and beyond her job role throughout the pandemic to help me out, I am pretty sure cycling to Screwfix to purchase a hand sander and then over to Lipson to deliver it is not in her job description! The support from Timebank has been incredible and helped me through the last six months.
I have felt very, very isolated here for many reasons – the main one being the inability to complete simple tasks due to not being online. Getting health issues sorted and knowing where to go to get tested was difficult due to all voicemails signposting you to use their website. Television reports would give me so much information yet, for the full details you would be told to visit their website. Trying to get information from the council – told to go online, trying to contact work – recorded message telling me to go to their website, contacting my bank – recorded message with details about the website! Online, Online Online!! If I would have I would but it just wasn’t an option, I really felt like I was a pariah and the people I did get to speak to made me feel like I was being a nuisance, I know I am not the only one in this position, not by a long shot. It is really sad to think there are others like me who have been left all but stranded for this length of time”.