Thousands of Croydon residents have rallied to support each other during the coronavirus outbreak.
More than 2,000 people have joined a community support group established on Facebook to support residents confined to their homes.
The Croydon Covid-19 Mutual Aid group is acting as the coordinating umbrella for 29 groups, offering various forms of assistance including shopping and dog walking services for self-isolating neighbours.
Secondary school teacher Rowenna Davis, is one of the group’s organisers, said: “The response has been overwhelming since we set up.
“Just today someone reached out to us who runs a café. They had to close suddenly and have lots of fresh food that they’re now donating to a local soup kitchen.”
“Social media comes under a lot of flak but it’s wonderful to see so many people come together.”
Currently, there are more than 900 grassroot mutual aid associations across the UK listed on www.covidmutualaid.org.
However, concerns have been raised over the safeguarding risks presented by these open platforms which are coordinated mostly over Facebook and Whatsapp messenger.
“All mutual aid groups are still figuring this out,” said Ms Davis.
“We are working to create an online form where volunteers must upload ID and a DBS check if they are to help out inside people’s homes.”
Ms Davis said her group was liaising with Croydon Council on how best to safeguard residents and volunteers.
Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones welcomed the community’s response to the crisis.
She said: “We are seeing the beginnings of people supporting each other in very simple local ways.
“This response is not like anything I’ve seen before.”
The Labour MP said that she is supporting Croydon Voluntary Action to become the coordinating hub for all aid efforts across the area.
Mrs Jones also hopes that the significant amount of online activity does not overlook the needs of those without access to these platforms.
“I do still worry about those vulnerable people who aren’t on social media. If you’re not online it’s difficult for you to know where to go,” said Mrs Jones.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re getting to people who don’t ask.”
Croydon’s first female MP said she would write personally to all elderly people in Croydon Central in the next few days updating them on the government’s latest social distancing measures.
Croydon’s independent businesses are also finding ways to innovate in a time of crisis.
Online community platform East Croydon Cool (ECC) has just launched a project encouraging residents to share their tips for self-isolation on Instagram, filling in a template created by a local graphic designer.
ECC founder Maddy Duxbury said: “It creates a sense of community.
Everyone can see what everyone else is doing.”
Ms Duxbury is also spotlighting the response of Croydon’s businesses through her #LocalsLoveLocally social media campaign.
Launched today, the project encourages followers to purchase vouchers from local businesses and take advantage of services such as virtual singing lessons and free self-care programmes.
The full impact of the covid-19 outbreak on business is yet to be determined.
Despite unprecedented challenges, Croydon’s residents and businesses are demonstrating immense resilience under pressure.
“You’re seeing the very best of humanity connecting and working together,” said mutual aid organiser Ms Davis.
“All of this is with people who I’ve never met before.”