Letter from our CEO: Look how far we’ve come

‘let’s just celebrate how far we’ve come and how much we’ve achieved in such a short time. No wonder we’re a little tired!’

Hard to comprehend, but this is the 20th week since we went into lockdown. I can’t quite decide whether this feels like no time at all, or at least three lifetimes ago (possibly both).

These days, by the magic of Zoom, I have regular conversations with colleagues, from similar organisations and other walks of life, locally and all over the UK. What’s fascinating is not just the similarity of the practical issues we are all grappling with, but how closely our changes in energy and emotion seem to mirror each other.

At the moment, the prevailing mood seems to weariness, even of feeling more confused and stressed than during the first few frantic weeks, when there were so many new and urgent things to organise.  One colleague commented that people seem fractious, and meetings easily become volatile.  Even (whisper it) a little bit of nostalgia for the clarity and simplicity of total lockdown, and the energy and purpose of those early days. Apparently this ‘war room fatigue’ or ‘regression’ phase is well known to those regularly involved in crisis response. It happens as the energy and purpose of the initial ‘emergency’ phase start to wane, and the scale and complexity of what ‘recovery’ will demand become apparent. You can read about the phenomenon in this article in Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2020/05/if-you-feel-like-youre-regressing-youre-not-alone.  I found it helpful to know it’s not just me!

So, with this in mind, let’s just celebrate how far we’ve come and how much we’ve achieved in such a short time. No wonder we’re a little tired!

At the start of the crisis, none of us really knew the scale of what we’d have to deal with.  There are over 3,000 clinically high-risk people (the NHS ‘shielded’ group) in South Derbyshire alone, and of course many, many more people who are vulnerable due to their age or health condition, ill from the virus or self-isolating for other reasons. Our public sector partners were deeply concerned that, if formal services were not quickly put in place, lockdown would leave thousands without access to basic food, medication or social contact.

This never happened. And the reason for that was…well, all of us.  Firstly family, friends, neighbours and acquaintances stepped in to help those closest to them.  Local neighbourhoods and informal groups got together to identify vulnerable people in their area and offer support. Community groups and charities (including CVS) reorganised themselves to offer new services in new ways, to make sure that vulnerable and isolated people who had no-one to help, and nowhere else to go, were not left adrift. By the time the formal offer of help via the county’s Community Response Unit was in place, a whole infrastructure of local volunteers was ready to do what was needed – and, in fact, was already busy doing it. Different organisations – public sector, businesses and voluntary groups – came together and worked hard to make sure no one fell through the gaps.

Here at CVS, we signed up more volunteers in the first few months of the crisis than in the whole of the previous year – quite apart from all those who volunteered with the national NHS ‘Goodsam’ scheme. People who couldn’t offer time gave generously in other ways –  cash donations ranging from generous lump sums from local businesses, to a few bank notes in an anonymous envelope, to those committing as regular givers to our Stronger South Derbyshire Fund. Despite the initial food shortages and shopping restrictions, our food bank has continued to be topped up with donated supplies.  I hope we have managed to acknowledge personally everyone who left a name and address – please tell me if you’ve been overlooked as we hugely and genuinely appreciate each and every one of you: Thank you.

There is lots still to do. We all share concerns about those who have been left vulnerable or more vulnerable by the crisis, who have lost loved ones at such a difficult time, who have struggled with the absence of their normal support networks, whose jobs and businesses have been hit, or who are just fearful of the new world that they are emerging into. Many charities and services that act as a lifeline are themselves suffering loss of income or struggling to reopen services safely. Not to mention all the uncertainty about future waves of the virus and concerns about the long term impact of all this on people’s lives, livelihoods and wellbeing.

As the lockdown measures gradually lift (and, possibly, are lowered…and lifted again) we know it will be an uphill rocky road ahead. What is clear to me, though, is that in difficult times South Derbyshire rolls up its sleeves and stubbornly gets on with it.  We should be proud of all that we’ve achieved already – and confident that, as always, we will rise to the challenge.

Keep well, keep on keeping on, and take care of those close to you.


Kerrie Fletcher
South Derbyshire CVS