In times of crisis, the importance of community groups is highlighted, and while the coronavirus pandemic has had a seismic impact on each and every individual, the strength of the community has shone through. The evidence of the selfless acts to ensure each and every individual is cared for has been incredibly encouraging and has in many cases restored our faith in humanity.
Helmsdale & District Development Trust have ensured the continuation of our Kitchen Garden throughout the crisis and have ramped up production to ensure supply of fresh produce to our community. The staff have continued to work incredibly hard throughout the crisis, planting, watering, and maintaining the garden at this critical time of year. Volunteers are now returning in small numbers as restrictions are eased.
We have developed an online shop, environmentally friendly packaging has been procured and a system for collection or delivery is in place. Covid 19 funds have also been used to buy a video camera to enhance the online presence of the garden and to help those feeling isolated and benefiting from some input from the outside world. The Trust has set up a market stall in the centre of the village for locals to buy fresh fruit and veg and this has proved very popular.
The community has pulled together and responded well, particularly in the early days when there was a danger of widespread panic. By the time lockdown was announced, the Resilience group had over 50 volunteers signed up to deliver leaflets to everyone in the community, explaining how they would help those in a vulnerable position.
The Community Council has worked closely with the Kitchen Garden and other Community groups in the area. Funding has been gathered to support the garden activities and also to deliver a series of treat bags to the isolated vulnerable folk in the community and families with young children. Members of the community are working on home-made face masks and other PPE has been made available for the volunteers. Helmsdale Community Transport and Connecting Communities have been working independently, ensuring that food is reaching those in need.
The challenges ahead for the Helmsdale Kitchen Garden project, even in normal times, were daunting. The onset of the pandemic and all its restrictions have been made even more so. It is now to the future that we look.
As a service-based economy, we have been hit hard by the crisis and the current conditions have highlighted the importance of tourism and hospitality in our part of the world, as everything has ground to a halt. We need to ensure we come out the other side stronger and more resilient, ensuring that our community continues to thrive in the future. The resurgence of community spirit and the overwhelming response to pull together has been powerful and a breath of fresh air, and if anything this should give us the confidence in ourselves as communities to tackle the big issues and the opportunity to reset our priorities going forward.
Mary Stewart is Development Officer at Helmsdale & District Development Trust.