Community volunteers respond to pandemic challenge at Old Trafford Hub

Reverend Christine Aspinall is Manager of the St John’s Centre in Old Trafford and currently manages the Old Trafford Community Response Hub, which is based at the centre.

Here she tells us about how things have changed, what her role now looks like and how she and her team of volunteers continue to serve the people of Old Trafford.

Prior to the coronavirus lockdown, St John’s was a vibrant community organisation, generally full of people and the venue for all sorts of groups and classes, from choirs to Brownies to martial arts … and when covid came suddenly it all had to stop.

Trafford Council began coordinating a community response very quickly, and asked if St John’s could become a Response Hub for the Old Trafford area. At that stage I didn’t know exactly what was required but I did know the community needed support and that we would be well placed to do it, so we stepped up and said yes.

There was a lot to learn, and quickly. Instead of people, the centre was soon full of Trafford Assist food parcels and boxes of PPE. We had to get up to speed with reporting systems and train up our 36 volunteers and get them on a rota – it was a whole new experience for everyone and hard work - but exhilarating too to work so quickly and know we were doing something essential for the community.

The individual stories make you realise what a difference the centre is making, and the lifeline it provides. One elderly lady was shielding and only had a microwave and was struggling to get suitable food to cook. We took her a food parcel but topped it up with microwave meals paid for by a donation to the Hub. She rang back afterwards to say the kindness had made her feel like crying – she had felt so alone and receiving the food and knowing someone was looking out for her had given her a huge lift.

It has been satisfying getting to know people from other organisations across the borough – Trafford Council, Thrive Trafford, other community groups – and know we’re all working together towards the same goals. Those relationships will be essential going forward and we will be able to work together more effectively because those connections have been made. We are all starting to look at the recovery process across Trafford and we need to continue to work together for the good of our communities.

As we emerge from lockdown we’re starting to anticipate some of the issues coming in its wake - more people unemployed, with less income and potentially plunged into poverty and all that brings with it.

So as a staff team we’re now planning how we can meet the needs of the community. We are hoping to offer training and learning again, both formal and informal for those that need to update their skills, and activities to support health and wellbeing. We’re looking at how we might make this transition safely in the next two months within government guidelines, especially as we will still be acting as a response hub. There is still plenty to do and we are aiming onwards and upwards."

Posted on Thursday 16th July 2020