Creating Heritage: A diary during Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Part Nine

Over the last year, I have had numerous requests from my team for me to write my ‘Talking Heritage’ blog, and unfortunately I have told them that I was too busy each time. Now, following a week that is sure to go down in history, I have stopped and taken the time to reflect.

My job at Canterbury Museums and Galleries is to preserve our City’s heritage and culture, making sure it is relevant and engaging to all. We spend time thinking about what and how we ‘collect’ objects that help uncover our history and tell our story, as well as which we might dispose of, so that we can make room for the new. 

In this time of uncertainty and unorthodox decisions, I have decided that instead of choosing an item to talk about from our collection that I will start a new collection. From today, Saturday 21st March 2020, we will document the everyday lives of our community as we pass through this point in time.

Michelle Moubarak, Museums and Cultural Programme Director

Day 57: Saturday 16 May

Today I am working at the Community Support Hub as a Food Hub Coordinator and have been working in this role since the hub became operational. It has been challenging at times but has been a fantastic experience. It’s been wonderful working with numerous other staff members and volunteers that I wouldn’t usually work with in my normal job role.

As it’s a Saturday, I arrived early at the hub to open up ready for the Hub Assistants. Today we are expecting a fresh fruit and veg delivery and we have a number of orders for food parcels that have been sent through.

Myself and a team of 5 others have worked together in packaging up the parcels and ensuring vulnerable members of the public are catered for that don’t have another way of accessing food.

The team has worked well, ensuring all picking and packing stations are restocked, that a number of parcels are made up ready for the next day, the hub is swept and cleaned and the daily stock check is completed.

The volunteer drivers arrive at different times throughout the day to collect the parcels to deliver to members of the public. The volunteers have become regulars, so it’s nice to see them and speak with them within the confinements of social distancing rules.

During my lunch break, I do my 25 press ups in aid of Mental Health Awareness Month; a challenge that is widely spread across social media. You do 25 press ups for 25 days, nominating people daily to do the same in order to raise awareness. I took this challenge up as its imperative now more than ever in these extraordinary times, where so many people are finding themselves vulnerable, isolated and anxious.

By Sarah Kelly, Senior Regeneration Officer (Food Hub Coordinator – Covid-19 Community Response Team)

Woman in black doing push-ups on the floor

Day 58: Sunday 17 May

Sunday used to be a day reserved for spending time with my family, but under lockdown the days all merge together and there’s no longer that traditional split of workdays and weekends. My workday today started with me familiarising myself with the new processes that have swiftly been developed over the last few weeks to enable the Council to respond so effectively and professionally to the needs of its residents during the COVID-19 lockdown. I’ve also checked in with the team I’ll be working with for the day – it’s lovely to be working with officers from across the Council – many of whom my path would never normally cross with.

We have a new team of call handlers who are responding to those residents who may need our help, and my role today is to ensure that those needing a food parcel delivery or have medication to collect get what they need. We need to line up the volunteers who are able to collect and deliver food parcels and medication and make sure that the emergency food hub that we have set up has the food bagged up and ready to collect. My other new job during lockdown has been to order in enough food supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) for the food hub and volunteers, so I’ve been busy!

Work has provided a bit of structure to my days and I’ve enjoyed keeping in touch with my team via regular video calls, although it’s not the same as seeing each other in person. At the moment I can do all of my work from home so I wonder when I’ll be able to see all my colleagues again in person?

I have young 2 boys at home with me and it has been a challenge trying to work with them in the house. Whilst they understand I must work, they simply don’t want me to! However, it is nice seeing more of them and for them to have a bit of an insight of what Mum gets up to when she’s at work! I hope they are proud of me for helping residents who need a bit of support.

By Stacey Wells, CCC Commissioning Projects Officer
(Call Admin and Suppliers and Stock Management – Covid-19 Community Response team)

Dover Castle with Dover houses in the foreground

Day 59: Monday 18 May

Today marks the 9th week of lockdown. I know this because my wife has a running count on the calendar in our kitchen – also the home of the makeshift desk I’m currently sitting at! 

I am, and have been, very grateful for the little garden we have. Without it neither of us would be as sane as we are. We’ve been able to order lots of plants and compost online and had the time to put a lot more work into than we would have done otherwise, making it now a lovely place to relax and cards games together after a long day “at” work. My wife and I are also working towards circumnavigating Canterbury on foot which will be a 20 mile plus walk! So far our longest has been 13.6 miles, so still a long way to go but I’ve enjoyed exploring and learning the countryside around Canterbury. Packed with great views and little pockets of local history.

Today, my day began at 8am in order to assign caseloads to our Community Hub call handlers. These calls are used to respond to requests for help that we receive from our online form or via referral from Central Government and the NHS. It includes assigning callers caseloads of up to 20 calls a day, and assigning others to take incoming calls from district residents. This allows us to prioritise and coordinate our support to ensure they we, as Canterbury City Council, are reaching those who need us most. It was a busy, intense day, as most days Call Coordinating are. 

When we closed for the day, and had finished collecting and sorting the data on what had been achieved that day, it was around 6pm. Thankfully my wonderful wife had made me a cup of tea and we sat outside with our drinks playing card games before making dinner. 

Having quiet moments outside with my wife, going on long walks and drinking tea (usually not at the same time) has been the silver lining of an otherwise unstable and difficult time for many. This forced slower pace, when not working as a Call Coordinator at least, does seem to suit me and I’m thankful for it.

By Charles Hall, External Development Officer (Call Coordinator – Covid-19 Community Response team)

Garden patio with flowers and plant pots against a wooden fence

Day 60: Tuesday 19 May

It’s week 9 of lockdown and I am attending the Community Support Hub as the Hub Coordinator, where I have been working every Tuesday and Wednesday for the last seven weeks to organise food parcels for families that have registered requests for support from the council. I have been redeployed for half of my working week into this role.

At the hub, staff put the food items into bags and the bags are then pulled into one food order, taking into account any dietary requests as much as possible with the items we have available. Once the parcel is marked as ready, then we wait for the parcel to be collected by one of the volunteer drivers. We have to issue the driver with PPE and help load up their vehicles.

Today has been a bit different from a normal hub day, as I have had to open up the building, which was a first for me, and to also train another member of staff to take on the role of Hub Coordinator. As part of the role, we have to accept food and PPE deliveries, check off the items to make sure the delivery is complete, complete a daily stock check, manage the Hub Assistants to ensure they are operating in a safe manner and that social distancing and manual handling rules are adhered to.

It has been nice to get out of the house to participate in something that is helping people in need. I have had the chance to meet members of staff at The Hub that previously I only knew slightly, as well as meeting the fantastic volunteer drivers.

It’s been very tiring at times, as this is a very manual job and I’m used to sitting in an office all day. Juggling this work as well as continuing to do my normal job has been challenging at times, but other members of staff in my team have helped me greatly when working at the hub.

It has been very rewarding knowing that the hub is making a difference in people’s lives at a very difficult time. The team work has been amazing in both my new and existing team.

By Liz Mastin, Product Manager (Food Hub Coordinator – Covid-19 Community Response Team)

Lots of paper bags lined up on the floor in a sports hall

Day 61: Wednesday 20 May

It’s been a very busy but satisfying day. My normal role within the Council is the Events Officer, supporting the planning and delivery of community, charity and commercial events across the Canterbury District, including Whitstable and Herne Bay. I started this role only in the middle of February this year. I was looking forward to supporting local events and communities, and, to be honest, improving my work life balance and enjoying a bit more time at home. Prior to this I was running the Surface Events Team for TfL dating back to the London Olympics and was anticipating a bit more of a relaxed lifestyle.

What’s the saying? “The best laid plans of mice and men.”

This didn’t quite work out as I expected. Coming back to the district after living in London for nearly 40 years was literally a breath of fresh air. Yet, after only two weeks of optimistically planning for the future, the increasing impact of the pandemic led to the cancellation of events so many people were looking forward to, the inability to meet groups of friends, enjoy entertainment, celebrate and be involved in sporting events in a beautiful part of the country.

Since then I have been involved in the Community Support Hub, helping the vulnerable and those who have had to isolate to keep safe. I have been the Call Coordinator today which at times can be very demanding, though it provides a personal satisfaction in that I am doing what I can to assist others. I consider myself lucky, having a fairly large garden, a dog and plenty to keep me occupied. I recognise that for other people this time is much more arduous and the releasing of the restrictions around socialising and returning to a normal way of life cannot come soon enough. But it will happen and we will look back on this time as a challenge that we got through. Don’t forget “the sun’ll come out tomorrow – come what may.”

By Derek Theobald, Events Officer (Call Coordinator – Covid-19 Community Response Team)

Sunshine poking through some trees

Day 62: Thursday 21 May

Is it really only day 62?!? It feels like I have passed GO a number of times already in 62 days and not collected my £200. Like a lot of the days during the lockdown, today has been another beautiful one with not a cloud in sight.

I have been doing my role as Volunteer Coordinator today and it has been a lot busier than anyone expected with the bank holiday weekend approaching. With the help of some amazing local volunteers and the super CCC team on duty today, we have managed to get out over 25 food parcels and 20 medication collections. The amount of people who have volunteered to help out from the CCC district is really overwhelming and we cannot thank them enough!

In my usual role of Event’s & Hospitality Coordinator for The King’s Hall, I am usually surrounded by large numbers of people at events. So to say the change in my day-to-day life has been big is an understatement! I currently have no late nights, unless my partner and I are binging a particularly good show on Netflix or I am trying to complete a piece of LEGO before bed. I have been trying to stay positive and productive during the lockdown, lots of decorating and gardening has now been done (we bought our first home in January 2019, so there was plenty to do). Thankfully, everyone close to me has managed to stay well during the lockdown and we will all get to see eachother again soon.

We do not know what the future holds for us but I think Bob Dylan summed it best:

“For the times they are a-changin”

By James Davies, Event’s & Hospitality Coordinator (Volunteer Coordinator – Covid19 Community Response Team)

Keyboard with plaque that says 'my desk is my castle'

Day 63 : Friday 22 May 

It’s been 9 weeks since my partner and I started working from home full time. Prior to lockdown conditions, I used to take the opportunity to work from home to complete a concentrated piece of work – now it has become the new norm with meetings happening virtually and even less of a commute from the bedroom to the desk. Although we keep in touch daily within the team, I do miss physically seeing everyone at work and the general buzz you get from working in a shared space. The effect of not being able to socialise physically with friends and colleagues is quite profound, as we would often meet up after work for dinner and drinks. This was something I did try to replicate, however as you will see in the photo, the conversation was a little ‘one-sided’!

My role within the Council has changed significantly over the past few weeks, prior to the COVID-19 crisis a significant amount of my role was leading the project to establish the Council’s new Waste Collection company. At the start of the crisis, our service – Commercial and Cultural Development, led on the implementation of our Community Hub to support those who are self-isolating or being asked to ‘shield’ within the district. The team all put in very long working days in the initial weeks, knowing that the work we were doing was going to have an immediate and direct impact for those in need within the Canterbury district.

Our working life makes up a significant proportion of our lives overall, and typically I would usually revert to talking about work if people ask how things are going. However, the lockdown has made me realise how much I take for granted being able to see my family. This is a feeling and experience that affects almost all of us across the nation, and it is unsettling not knowing how long the current restrictions will remain in place for. Are we beyond the halfway point until we can hug our loved ones again? Personally, I hope so.

By Guy Mayhew, Commissioning and Performance Manager (CCC Data and Analytics Lead – Covid-19 Community Response Team)

Man holding a champagne glass with printed photographs of friends around him

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