Guest Post: Vicky Beckwith CEO of Re:Work – How’s it going?

Am I the only person who feels they have slipped into an alternative universe? Maybe I have been binge watching too many sci-fi box sets but, really, I never thought I would be checking the government website to see how many people I am permitted to meet with in a park!

But here I am, struggling with only being able to see most of my friends and family through social media, discovering that living with a background of anxiety makes me dumb and unable to make decisions, realising that little things that pre Covid me would shrug off now make me bloody furious and  wondering if there will ever be a post Covid me.

Of course, there are positives. There are positives because people are amazing and wonderful.

When lockdown started it brought into focus the dilemma of being a charity; the constant balance of responding to the need you see vs being able to pay the bills. Obviously, social isolation was not going to be easy and there wasn’t enough time for support services to be developed. The sensible, business like response would be to ignore that, furlough everyone but the fundraiser and hunker down for the duration.  But nobody wanted to do that.

We had to furlough 3 members of staff, people whose job could not be done from home or at a distance. It slowed the speed at which we are haemorrhaging cash, but I have missed them.  We are still working with some of the young people who volunteer with us, as per government regulations. We have been renovating an empty flat, kept the Health Parks safe and tidy and the rest of the time we have been working on the Knowle West Alliance’s Covid response.

It is a measure of the strength and resilliance of Knowle West that there are so many organisations, and that they have a willingness to work together. It always bemuses me that people think that “charity organisations” are in some way separate from “the community”. We are always being asked “how have we consulted the community?” Umm.. well not counting all the people on our team that live in the area or those who are our trustees, we talk to people all the time, every day, in our café, our shop, their gardens and on the street and if you are under the impression that we don’t get told what we should be doing you have never met a Knowle Wester (or maybe a human being). It is not a popular answer, but good ideas don’t only happen when there are post-it’s in a room. We have a rich and diverse culture of social enterprise because people in the area have had good ideas and put time and effort into building on them.

“Sometimes you just need a helping hand”- I was told that on an actual questionnaire about how re:work should support people (and told 16 other times when I have just been having a chat).  That is what we have tried to be in the last 2 months. We have been calling people who have contacted (or family and friends have contacted) the council Covid Response line (0800 694 0184) we have kept a safe and 2m distant door open for people looking for help and we have done 100s of little things because we thought it might make someone’s life a little bit easier – or more fun.

It has been amazing to work so closely with the other and bigger organisations on the estate. It has been a real eyeopener. A special thank you needs to go to the Health Living Centre on Downton Road who have taken a key role in bringing things together. They have communicated between Bristol City Council, the NHS and Actual People (who also deserve CAPITAL LETTERS). Both the Council and the Health Service speak a language that I don’t truly understand (or really want to) so having a translator and facilitator to do that has been essential.

There are billions of positive things I have seen over the past 2 months that I would like to write about but I wouldn’t read that much on a blog, and I imagine most people stopped reading this 2 paragraphs ago.  So I will end now by saying: that last week was my worst week, and one of the things that has kept me sane has been the people I have been calling as part of the Knowle West Alliance Covid Response (and no I don’t say that when I call them, I tried a couple of times but it confused me).  I hope we all get to meet up and have a cup of tea/ coffee when this is over.

So, even though the restrictions are lessening if you are having a bad, or even your worse week – call 0800 694 0184 and leave some details – you will be doing us both a favour.

Vicky is CEO of Re:Work, a founding member of the Knowle West Alliance. She and her team are amongst the Call Befriender’s for the Knowle West CV19 Helpline, working alongside workers and volunteers from across the estate to support our community. #WeAreKnowleWest