Communities bond as coronavirus spreads

Helping elderly neighbours at a difficult time (Photo: Blake Mannes)

Blake Mannes reports on a positive side-effect of Covid-19

When an elderly resident in the small rural community of Leeton, in the NSW Riverina, knocked on Samantha Kennedy’s door and asked her for toilet paper, she was “heartbroken”.

“He had run out and had no chance of getting any at the local supermarkets,” she recalls. “My family has built up ample supply over the years, so I knew I had plenty to give.”

But Kennedy did not only help this one gentleman. She took to her local community’s Facebook page to offer rolls of toilet paper to any elderly Leeton residents in need.

Within hours of receiving a barrage of “likes” and responses, she had delivered toilet paper to 36 households and support groups. She has also been fetching groceries and everyday essentials for vulnerable locals.

“There were plenty of hugs, laughs and gratitude. Just because the world has gone crazy, it doesn’t mean we have to!”

Samantha Kennedy, Leeton resident

Kennedy’s actions are typical of those of communities around the country, with people banding together to help each other out as Australians are urged to stay indoors to stem the growth of coronavirus infections.

Some people are going online to offer support and assistance; others are knocking on neighbours’ doors, willing to shop for them or help in other ways.

Dr Cobi Calyx, a social cohesion expert at the Centre for Social Impact, at the University of New South Wales, says community support is an important factor in ensuring well-being and resilience in difficult times such as these.

An act of neighbourly kindness (Photo: Blake Mannes)

“There are many ways we can help our friends, families, neighbours and people we don’t know, despite the rules of social distancing,” she explains.

“For example, we can leave notes, send texts and care packages, and encourage people to engage with each other [at a distance].”

Jamie Reeves, a Queenslander, was desperate to find hand sanitiser, but his local supermarkets had run out.

“I had major surgery coming up, and my immune system is incredibly low. I knew I had to follow medical advice about coronavirus, but I couldn’t buy the products that I needed,” he says.

Within 10 minutes of posting on his local community’s site, Reeves had received five offers of hand sanitiser, as well as suggestions of how to make his own, and of places to buy sanitiser online.

“All I needed was one bottle just to feel safe, but in the end I was turning down offers,” he says.

“The response was overwhelming, and it is [at] times like this that you become grateful of the community around you.”

Dr Calyx says acts of kindness can benefit not only the recipient (and the giver), but also others who hear about or witness them.

“We know that seeing other people smile, and seeing acts of kindness, can help us feel better ourselves.”

Also, she adds, “the more people are behaving kindly towards each other, the more likely it is that other people might start doing that themselves.”