Resurgam Trust: Collaborating and Caring

3 Aug 2020 Helen McLaughlin    Last updated: 11 Sep 2020

Resurgam Trust COVID19 response

Resurgam Trust is a community owned and run community development trust which identifies and supports the needs of the local community through social enterprise, community projects and other initiatives.

Gillian Lewis, Healthy Living Manager at Resurgam Healthy Living Centre talked to NICVA’s Helen McLaughlin about dealing with COVID 19.

Resurgam found that collaborative spirit both within their own team of staff and volunteers and between themselves and other voluntary and statutory agencies really meant that needs got met during lockdown.

What did Resurgam do?

Here is just a flavour of what Resurgam and their team of up to 500 volunteers offered during the lockdown throughout the Lisburn area:

  • They opened the Lagan View Centre as the Emergency Response Centre, storing PPE for use by staff and volunteers, making up food, activity and comfort packs to be distributed to local people.
  • The Social Enterprise Bar the Highway Inn and Kitchen was transformed into a soup kitchen, providing meals to people in need in the community. This was done supported by existing partnerships with Fare Share NI as well as local shops, farmers and providers.
  • Resurgam also delivers shielded and other food packs in partnership with the Lisburn Food Bank & Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, as well as monthly treat packs to local care home, with comfort & activity packs going out across the community to individuals and partner groups. 
  • They set up a Community Hardship Fund.
  • They worked as part of the Community Pharmacy Delivery Service providing volunteer drivers to partnered Pharmacies and partnered with Bryson to co-ordinate access to a hardship fund for people experiencing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19. 
  • They ensured that one branch of the Credit Union stayed open, so that people could still access money.
  • They adapted Healthy Living Centre and Youth Services to online and telephone support as well as delivering activity packs to local families and young people.
  • They provided Zoom sessions and What’s App groups for people experiencing loneliness or isolation.

Speaking of the level of support provided, Gillian comments: “The volunteers are by far the heroes – they are the people standing in a queue for an hour and half to get shopping for people. All I have to do is pick up a phone and say this person needs food or a prescription – it’s done by the next day”.

What have you learned?

Gillian feels that the importance of collaboration in meeting need has really come to the fore. She says: “Resurgam have always worked well in partnership but the crisis has meant that organisations are working together even better now - the aim was to see what combination of support best suited need, rather than it being the responsibility of single organisations.” One example was that it was made known to the organisation through a GP that a person who had been shielding had not eaten for 5 days as they could not get out to buy food. A combined support package of food deliveries, meals service, medication delivery and befriending calls was arranged to ensure the person stayed healthy – this was all arranged on the afternoon of the day it became known to the organisation, demonstrating that groups and agencies were able to work together to deliver an immediate and effective response.

Whilst there were inevitable teething problems in ensuring VCSE and statutory provision dovetailed well and didn’t overlap, the feeling is that relations between council and the trust on the ground are working better. As Gillian commented: “I can pick up the phone to them and access services I couldn’t before – this has really made a difference for individuals but as organisations and members of staff we have all gone through this response process together – we’re more able to pick up phone, and to collaborate operationally”.

A caring community

Gillian feels that the crisis reminded her of how considerate many members of the community are. Resurgam found that many of those they were supporting said that they didn’t want to take too much in case others needed it more. One man had requested only one food box and had tried to make it last as he didn’t want to request another one. After a chat with the volunteer, Resurgam have arranged for him to receive meals twice a week, a food pack and a PPE pack as well as a check-in with volunteers at least once a week – for which he has been very thankful. Another older person had a fall but had avoided going to A&E due to fear of the virus. Gillian says: “Volunteers were able to connect the person with their GP who arranged suitable checks and care and we all encouraged him to attend A&E which he did!”

Poverty and inequality

Resurgam’s experience has been that there is a substantial level of inequality out there and they do fear that this will deepen. Gillian comments: “This crisis has unmasked a level of unseen poverty – the quality of life for many was not good before and COVID has made it worse”. This is borne out by some of the feedback they have received:

“Thank you each and every one of yous. We have been isolating since Fri 13th, I sent a message to the page worried sick with my anxiety sky high knowing I needed help, within a few hours I had a lovely reply and an emergency hamper (with a smile and a wave through the window which the kids loved) and today a food hamper dropped to the door for us. If only you knew how much it meant. Crying because I actually had toilet roll (the first in weeks) also a fresh veda and other items. Myself and the kids truly appreciate it. Every single bit, even the check-in phone calls. Proud they are part of your youth group. Teaching them what community is all about”.

What does the future hold?

Gillian feels that there will be ongoing hardship as the crisis unfolds, as well as mental health needs and the need to support children who have had limited access to IT. On the positive side she says: “This is an opportunity for the VCSE to demonstrate what we’re good at and an opportunity for proper multi-agency working. We talk about partnership a lot – this gives us a chance to work in true partnership”.

What keeps you going?

The Resurgam ethos is all about communities supporting communities. Gillian says: “This drive for things to be better where things are unfair and unjust, it drives me”.

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