Standing Together to respond to the global pandemic
“Inspired by the story of the little boy with a mere five loaves and two fish, a group of medics amongst the Standing Together coalition joined forces to launch into the deep to reach further into communities and respond to the needs of frontline workers.”
Dr Chi-Chi Ekhator
As the reality of the havoc wreaked by COVID 19 began to descend on the UK with reports of excess deaths in vulnerable communities, amongst frontline workers, bus drivers, care home settings and amongst those from ethnic minorities backgrounds, Ascension Trust felt the need to act as a charitable organisation.
As a board, we digested the stark reality that some groups were more than 4 times more likely to die from COVID 19 than others. As a GP and like many of my colleagues across the country, I began to worry about the profound long-term effects of the pandemic on all of us and the tsunami of mental health issues that would inevitably descend. As a leader in my church and in my community, the anxiety around me was palpable as many recounted their lived experiences and the realities of losses, illness, safety concerns, financial uncertainties, job insecurity and fears about speaking up.
So what did we do?…Ascension Trust teamed up with key partners and organisations such as Churches Together Britain and Ireland (CTBI), Through the Roof, Counsellors Inc, Christ Hospital Ministry, Dr Joan Myers OBE, Medics2You and we formed an alliance termed ‘The Standing Together Coalition’ – to respond as a wider Christian Community, as leaders, as professionals to mitigate the wide reaching impact of COVID 19 on vulnerable communities. We jointly embraced the reality that “we”, the Church had to go further, had to do more with great urgency to help those most affected.
We reached out to the frontline and started engaging health and social care professionals to listen and hear their concerns. We conducted surveys and regular discussions with an expanding cohort of health, social care and mental health practitioners. We gave them the platforms to speak in safe capacities and we started to gain traction on our aims to galvanise and mobilise ‘the Church’ to respond to their fears, concerns and requests for practical support.
Inspired by the story of the little boy with a mere five loaves and two fish, a group of medics amongst the Standing Together coalition joined forces to launch into the deep to reach further into communities and respond to the needs of frontline workers and vulnerable groups. Five2Medics was born! We began to talk to individual churches and speak to their congregations via Zoom about COVID 19, staying well and underlying health needs. We also sought to offer a moral representation for communities.
CTBI organised a webinar and we spoke to Churches nationally across England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. We explored how the COVID-19 crisis was affecting those from ethnic minorities communities in Britain. Attendees heard about our work to raise money to buy PPE for vulnerable frontline workers, to provide counselling and prayer support for those traumatised by events and to campaign and advocate to ensure those from ethnic minorities medical staff and care workers received the support they needed.
Our surveys highlighted the need for mental health support due to the impact of growing financial concerns, redundancies and lockdown measures on wellbeing. So, we ran a mental health campaign as part of mental health week to encourage those from vulnerable groups to look after their mental health. Moreover, we started to address the mental health needs of specific groups.
The newly formed Five2Medics Team embarked on a series of three Saturday Webinars (Caring for the Carers) to address the wellbeing and mental health needs of frontline workers, with guest speakers advocating self/family care and covering topics such as PTSD, child mental health, wellbeing and sleep hygiene. All wheels were spinning so to speak as the team soon turned their attention to launch a three-week online Summer catch up ‘school’ for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
We also joined forces with corporate bodies and organisations who saw the great need to build resilience in communities. We conducted a webinar for the NatWest group to address the mental health and wellbeing needs of entrepreneurs and business owners from ethnic minorities backgrounds. Our current work includes:
- Wellbeing webinars for Street Pastors as part of a 3-part series to address their wellbeing needs as they go back onto the streets to support vulnerable communities across the country.
- ‘Lifted’ – a series of wellbeing and resilience building webinars for families in the Midlands hosted by Mount Zion Church, Birmingham as they go back to school, back to work and face the new norms.
- A Men’s forum to break down the walls of silence in dealing with emotional and mental health issues.
So, the work continues as we seek to reach many more and rebuild strength, wellbeing, health and togetherness like the little boy with his meagre five loaves and two fish in the hands of the Great Physician……
Dr Chi-Chi Ekhator, GP
Chair of Five2Medics, Ascension Trust
Ascension Trust Director
Five2Medics was born out of the desire to build wellness and resilience in communities. We deliver projects and initiatives that ease the health burdens on systems, communities and individuals. We promote health and protect wellbeing in response to societal challenges, inequities, disadvantage and deprivation. We deliver health and wellbeing initiatives as a social enterprise and in partnership with key stakeholders.
WITH YOUR SUPPORT WE RAISED FUNDS TO SECURE PPE FOR FRONTLINE WORKERS
The COVID-19 Standing Together Community Appeal was set up to help support frontline workers in communities up and down the country as they worked tirelessly day in and day out to meet the health needs of the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic