Coming together – in communities & as a nation

Joe Porter is a 23 year old #iwill Ambassador and District Councillor for Brown Edge & Endon where he is Cabinet Member for Climate Change.

We live in unprecedented times where our lives have been fundamentally changed, our personal freedoms have been restricted and more people have needed a safety net than in years. Despite the difficulties that we face and which continue to dominate the news, it is uplifting to see a situation on the ground of positive social action – a surge in community spirit.

I have always been passionate about politics, and really believe in what David Cameron said in 2010,  about a Big Society “A huge culture change where people, in their everyday lives, in their homes, in their neighbourhoods […] feel both free and powerful enough to help themselves and their own communities.”

I think that what I’m seeing up and down the country, and in my community, reflects the best of Cameron’s aspirations for a ‘Big Society’. People have been selflessly setting up community support groups to help each other get through this crisis – particularly those who are now shielding. 

In my own area in the Staffordshire Moorlands, it has been amazing to see self-starters establishing these groups from scratch and them spring into action – Surviving Together Leek – to name one great example. I do feel that the ingenuity and focus that people are now applying reflects the kind seen at great national crises of the past. While this crisis may not be a war – we nonetheless must pull our energies together to tackling this virus, an invisible killer.

That’s why, over the last few weeks, I have established a project called ‘Food for Endon’ to provide bags of fresh and locally grown fruit & veg to elderly and vulnerable people in the local area. Every Tuesday morning I collect the bags from Haregate Community Centre’s Community Hub who kindly provide them through local farmers and producers. They are sold for £3 each as the Council and various local councillors have helped to subsidise the cost of the bags each week. The bags contain eight different types of fruit & veg, depending on what is in season and I deliver them in person, following social distancing rules.

I also helped establish a network called ‘Help and Hope’ to spread positivity and connect people through online friendship. The network works with the two local churches – Endon St Luke’s Church and Endon Methodist Church – to provide volunteers to do weekly shopping, collect pharmacy prescriptions and a chat over the phone to those who are feeling lonely. We also have a Facebook group called ‘Surviving COVID19 – Endon’, which has gained over 300 members in just a few weeks.

By pulling together, we have seen what most characterises that community spirit, which goes beyond our local areas to unite us all as one country, and which affirms my pride in our nation. Although the next few months remain uncertain, I hope that we continue to see remarkable examples of the heroic efforts to help us defeat this disease.

Want to hear more about how young people are tackling food insecurity?