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July 1, 2020

Learning from Covid-19

Learning from Covid-19: repairing the damage, embedding the positives

Following Footsteps’ 2020 Earth Day gathering, this workshop provided an opportunity to listen to stories about the damage that Covid virus is causing, hearing about faith community responses and identify how to embed positive changes.  The workshop was also to provide the Birmingham City Council Taskforce with a view from the grassroots of the Covid pandemic.

Some 25 people from different communities across the city participated in the workshop.  The points in this report reflect the stories shared and the views expressed by participants during the workshops.

The workshop began with a Dr Ewan Hamnett in conversation with local community development activist, Mahmooda Qureshi.  Together they explored the health challenges Covid 19 presents and what can be learned from the from the pandemic.   Dr Peter Rookes provided an overview of faith community and voluntary sector responses to the pandemic.  A lively discussion followed with participants sharing stories and information before returning to Ewan Hamnett for a final summing up.

Workshop Conclusions

The immediate health impacts of the Covid pandemic vary widely across the City highlighting health and economic inequalities between communities.  Faith communities have responded by providing food and practical help and supporting key NHS workers.  Some changes need to be part of a ‘new way of doing’ things in the future.  This involves empowering individuals, building stronger, more locally based, communities and adopting joined up approaches that connect individuals, neighbourhoods, communities and the City. 

Workshop Findings

Immediate Covid damage

  • Pandemic is changing everybody’s lives. but it is old and vulnerable people most likely to die. 
  • Leading to less healthy living as
    • People, especially elderly, becoming less active and stuck in their houses
    • Reduced face-to-face interaction and less connected life-styles
    • Children (designed to move, explore, take risks) staying at home away from school

Inequality and need for fairness highlighted

  • Covid showing up the cracks in society. 
    • Nationally hot spots in low income areas
    • Poor lives matter
  • Need to value communities and even up
  • Inequalities involved in many of the problems shared. These all need addressing for a better post-COVID period
  • Need to support communities that have less infrastructure set up – e.g. food deserts
  • Older people, young people and the disabled have all had their services cut during the recession on cost grounds.
  • Need for data & statistics re COVID 19 and the specific distribution around Birmingham communities.  It relates to poverty and disadvantage
  • Need to turn society upside down so that older, young, disabled people are our top priority and society can learn from the richness of their perspectives

Faith and wider community Covid responses

  • Multi-faith hospital chaplaincy teams are playing an important role
    • Immense challenge providing effective spiritual and pastoral care
  • A chaplaincy team was established for the new Nightingale Hospital
  • In crises people turn to faith communities and Covid-19 is no exception
    • Need to value everybody in society – workers, cleaners, taxi drivers
  • Altruistic faith community values are coming to the fore.
    • Faith communities are active collaborators in the #BrumTogether initiative overseen by The Active Well-Being Society (TAWS) that has delivered large volumes of food, meals and support for  vulnerable and isolated people.  
    • Rowheath Pavillion Church is supplying halal and other meals
    • Clifton Road Mosque has been taking food in for people living on the street in City Centre –
  • We learned, in particular, about a number of Hindu community initiatives
    • Shree Ram Mandir and SEWA kitchens (Hindu) provide fresh cooked vegetarian tiffin lunches, especially for people stuck in their homes
    • Food is not just fuel.  It is important part of culture and way of life.
    • SEWA kitchens and volunteers’ initiatives: children creating art work that is taken to hospitals and care homes. Local knitting circles. Street beverage mornings.
    • SEWA Day supported local businesses: Ekta Unity in Coventry encouraged elderly to grow food, local shopping maintaining social distance encouraged, street-based initiatives
    • Focus on improving mental health:  work with schools, hospitals, care homes to spread joy through creative work
  • In the wider community, mutual aid societies springing up
  • Community gardens and allotments across the city are popular. 
    • Highbury Orchard are developing online resources to help people grow their own.
    • ‘Fruit and Nut Village’ community fruit growing initiative in Stirchley

Empowerment is important

  • Vital for people to feel able to contribute rather than just to be given things
  • Need for localism, living and working in local communities
    • 15-minute city, like Paris, with self-sufficient communities
    • building communities start with building trust. 
  • Need to engage with young people and people in difficult to reach communities. 
    • Need to have right approach for young people – not meetings, social media etc. 
  • Faith communities need to engage widely embracing employment, instability and food insecurity as part of a new approach to localism embracing 

Embedding positive changes

  • Need to help communities become more self-sufficient.
    • Have a way to promote and encourage local business.
    • “It will look like going back to the 1950s (sorry …), but good!”
  • Need to share examples of best practice across the city by coordinating approaches
    • Walking trains to get youngsters safely to school whilst allowing the roads to be freed from school run traffic and to get some exercise for the students.
    • There’s lots of wonderful volunteer work going on in the city and people have really rallied to the crisis that needs to be made sustainable in the longer term.
  • Need for localism, living and working in local communities
    • 15-minute city, like Paris, with self-sufficient communities
    • building local communities starting with building trust. 

Further viewing / reading from participants

  • Dr Ewan Hamnett’s video – Preventing and Curing Type 2 Diabetes:
  • Sewa Day 21st June Spread Some Joy campaign. Focussed on improving mental health and promoting yoga and vegan awareness.

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