OPINION: With this crisis, we need to exemplify the best of human nature

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OPINION: With this crisis, we need to exemplify the best of human nature

As the community is impacted by the virus, Michelle Barnett of Gift reflects on ways in which people are pulling together and supporting the most vulnerable

Magnolia Care Home receiving GIFT Care for the Carers packages
Magnolia Care Home receiving GIFT Care for the Carers packages

The speed, enormity and unprecedented nature of the events that are dominating the globe seem utterly surreal, yet, are so very real. The closure of schools, restaurants, theatres and more and the new norm of ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’, words that have made their way into our lexicon as fast as the virus is ripping through the world, demonstrate how vulnerable we truly are. 

Whilst the spread of Covid 19 and the drastic measures we are taking to contain and hopefully eradicate this invisible enemy have been thrust upon us, now more than ever before,  we need to exemplify the very best of human nature, with love, togetherness and connection. 

Within the last few days our single phone line at GIFT has turned red hot with call after call of distressed and genuinely scared people who are self-referring. We have also been inundated by requests from our community’s welfare organisations, United Synagogue Project Chessed, Jami, Holocaust Survivors’ Centre & Jewish Care and others to provide volunteers for their service users who are isolated and unwell. Schools have also contacted us, requesting support for the families eligible for free school lunches, that will be at a loss now that schools have closed. 

Ami & Nava Jacobs – with a few of the hundreds of care packages GIFT volunteers have made up for care givers in hospitals, care homes and ambulance stations

Whilst GIFT’s ‘normal’ activities number significantly with over 40,000 education participations, 13,000 food parcel deliveries and 33,000 hours of volunteering across London Manchester and Jerusalem in an average year, the expectation for GIFT to deliver practical support to exponentially increasing number of individuals and households in the coming weeks and months will require a different level of support.

Make no mistake, the GIFT team will rise to the challenges as they unfold. Within hours of the announcements that the inevitable closing of school doors is beginning to take place, GIFT’s door was never more open with an entirely new range of education programmes and volunteering initiatives.

A shortage of available food and household items, the sense of despair, loneliness and isolation and financial difficulties that many will now face is where the GIFT of CONNECTION will make a difference. Many hundreds of our community have registered to volunteer on GIFT’s volunteering WhatsApp groups. The opportunities to give are new yet vitally important for the welfare of our community, whether it be to deliver food parcels to the hundreds of households clamouring for support or make care packages for our incredible front line heroes or make support calls to the elderly and isolated, support a single mum whose 3 kids are now at home or set up a virtual tutor or run errands, pick up prescriptions, do shopping and deliver meals for those who have been inflicted by the virus, these incredible people are why GIFT exists.

The GIFT education team, who previously educated in over 100 venues – will now be delivering an entirely new online educational programme for a wide age range, to continue to inspire giving, bring hope, optimism and connection. Teaching our children to be givers in today’s new world was never more important. 

The GIFT team would like to offer an enormous thanks to all those who have contacted us in the last few days offering your support to help so many others. GIFT is our community’s giving partner, your ‘Go to for Giving’. Please consider your giving at this most important time by supporting the GIFT COVID 19 appeal –  jgift.org/covid19. 

Our special thanks goes to the Jewish News for the opportunity to write this piece and we appreciate their invaluable friendship and support at this time.

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