‘We can’t walk by when there’s a crisis’: Hampstead and Kilburn Covid-19 group on supporting isolated

The team from Hampstead & Kilburn Covid Community Relief: Sandrine Kasongo (top left), Richard Chadw

The team from Hampstead & Kilburn Covid Community Relief: Sandrine Kasongo (top left), Richard Chadwick (top right), Sean Hawie (centre), Connor Borretts (bottom left) and Suenesha Vijay Kumar (bottom right). Pictures: Hampstead & Kilburn Covid Community Relief - Credit: Hampstead & Kilburn Covid Community Relief

“We hope after all this is over we’re going to be a society that cares more for each other and that doesn’t just walk by when someone’s in a crisis.”

In mid-March, when five residents across Fortune Green, Finchley Road, Belsize and Hampstead saw their local communities gripped by fear as lockdown began, they took action.

Hampstead & Kilburn Covid Community Relief (HKCCR) was set up and the community group quickly amassed 300 volunteers to manage shopping, prescriptions and collections.

Helping vulnerable and isolated residents with tasks such as taking the bins out or dropping round change to use the communal washing machines, the grassroots organisation is now delivering food parcels from the Felix Project every Wednesday, and using JW3 community centre in Finchley Road as its base.

Co-founder Sandrine Kasongo said: “We operate on the basis of trust.

“We know people need shopping, they need their medicine collected and there are people willing to help, so it was a case of us then building that community network.

“Every day we go past neighbours but we often don’t know who they are.

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“So if we can get people supporting residents who live nearby on their street, it will be good for after lockdown.

“People will hopefully stay in touch, help and say ‘hi’.”

When HKCCR was established, it used leaflets, questionnaires and people’s geolocations to identify residents in need, and then who they could be ‘buddied’ up with.

Once it realised the broad scale of its volunteer base, it expanded its work and received swathes of requests, even from outside of London, from people who were concerned for their family and friends in Hampstead and Kilburn.

The community group is hoping the immense goodwill it has witnessed first-hand will leave a legacy of care far beyond lockdown.

Sandrine said: “Everyone keeps saying we’re in this together and we’re proof that we really are in this together.

“It’s been really good to connect people who would never otherwise speak to each other.

“We hope this great sense of community and togetherness will continue and that we become a more caring society.

“We hope people will appreciate those around them.”

For more information email covidcommunityrelief@gmail.com or call 07384 309 912.