Reb with her mutual aid poster up and supporting the domestic violence campaign
Reb with her mutual aid poster up and supporting the domestic violence campaign

Earlier this year among the measures put in place to deal with Covid-19, the government took the decision to suspended this years council elections. Due to take place this coming Thursday they will now happen in May 2021, we wanted to catch up with some of our local campaigners. Today we caught up with our St Thomas campaigner Rebecca Ozaniec:

 

What have you found most challenging….and the most positive things in lockdown?

 

The most challenging thing I have found about lockdown has been something that many parents have faced; working from home as well as ensuring my children don’t miss out on their education during this time. Trying to be a teacher, and to concentrate around young children, can be incredibly challenging! 

 

But worse I think is the worrying. Worrying for my brave mum and other frontline workers, my newly self employed brother not entitled to financial support and others in his situation, my elderly vulnerable in-laws and the many others at high risk fully self isolating.

 

Whilst it must not be forgotten that this crisis has had devastating affects for so many, I think there are a number of positives that many of us can draw from this experience. For me, it has made me stop and take stock, to realise just how many privileges and liberties we enjoyed in our daily lives prior to lockdown. Never again will I take for granted spending time with my family and friends, picking my children up from a busy day at school, sitting alongside my coworkers in the office, enjoying lunch or coffee on weekends with my family in a lively atmosphere at some of our favourite independent places.

 

I have also seen this time as a real opportunity to spend with my immediate family. As a parent, for me it is really quite a gift to be able to have this time together with my children (albeit trying at times!) Aside from maternity leave and school holidays, it is very rare to be able to slow down as a family, to stop and spend time on activities together, to enjoy each other’s company. Normally as a parent you run around like a “headless chicken”  all week and even at the weekend with the school run, clubs, parties and endless commitments!

 

What have you been doing in the community to support others? Have you been inspired by how the community is coming together? 

 

I have been really humbled and inspired to work alongside four fantastic ladies to establish firstly a Facebook Portsmouth Coronavirus Support Group and later a Mutual Aid neighbourhood support service (Kirsty Mellor, Paula Savage, Charlotte Gerada, and Carolyn Barber). 

 

We are proud to have set this service up in response to the huge need we identified via vulnerable people reaching out to us for support who were not eligible for support with other services in the city.

 

We are very pleased this service is now up and running, with networks of localised volunteers all over the city able to support requests of vulnerable residents promptly and efficiently, as and when their requests come in.

 

We are busy supporting Portsmouth’s residents with shopping needs, prescription collection, dog walking, providing a “listening ear,” and more. Our helpline is open 8am-8pm, 7 days/ week, and there is no eligibility criteria or referral process. The number is 02393 552553 – please share widely so we can support as many people in need as possible!

 

I have also been inspired to see my neighbourhood come together, even more closely (yet at a distance) then before!

 

If you could nominate a local business who’s been helping or keeping the community going who would yours be? 

 

If I could nominate a local business who has been helping to keep the community going it would be Portsmouth Cycle Exchange and Velopy Cycles in Southsea. This family-run  business has been working tirelessly to provide repairs and services for keyworker’s bicycles and to enable cycle owners to exercise safely around the city. Jessa Speed of Paint Chill Co also deserves a huge shout out for providing free online painting classes for children and adults. Art is so healing and we are all so grateful!

 

And I can’t forget the wonderful Wendy Budd of Budd’s Apothecary on Albert Rd, who has been working really hard to deliver herbal medicine prescriptions and vitamins and minerals to the people of Portsmouth, helping to keep so many of us who rely on supplements healthy. 

 

Who would you nominate as a community hero during this crisis? 

 

I would like to nominate Elle Gray, Service Manager of the You Trust’s Social Prescribing service, as a local hero. As one of the big charities who are operating under the umbrella of the Hive, Elle and her team have been working tirelessly to support thousands of the most vulnerable people in Portsmouth with their social prescribing service. From befriending to shopping, dog walking and prescription collection – I know she has been working incredibly hard to reach as many vulnerable people as possible.

 

Also, I can’t go without mentioning Sassy Harvey, director of children’s drama and entertainment company SH-Imaginations, and founder of the not-for-profit gender equality organisation My Boy Can. As a single mother who is newly self employed, Sassy had to be creative to survive this crisis. Sassy has fundraised nearly £2,000 to bring smiles to the children of Portsmouth – from personalised video messages, school visits, hospital visits and food parcel deliveries to families. She’s worked tremendously hard and I know so many children and parents are very grateful. 

 

What are you looking forward to after the lock down ends? 

 

The things I’m most looking forward to when lockdown ends are; giving my brave mum and in-laws a huge hug, seeing my girls reunited and playing happily with their school friends, spending time with my dear friends and wider family again. I can’t wait for that time! 

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