This week we speak to Danielle Mills for our #memberinfocus feature: “The Challenges and Opportunities of 2020”.
Q1. If you could describe the year 2020 in one word, what would it be
Q2. What was happening in your life when the pandemic struck?
Nothing out of the ordinary really, run of the mill life with a husband, two kids (7 and 3), and a crazy pup!
I had started a new job in January for a Cognitive Therapy practice after leaving a job I had been in since our eldest was 8 months old and things were great!
Q3. Why and when did you decide to get involved with community-based support?
Bear with me…it’s a long one!!!
Being told you are at high risk of serious complications/death from a previously unheard of (and, as you thought, overhyped) virus is frightening enough, however, what happens when you can’t get food or essentials that you previously took for granted?
I, unlike many others, had not been stockpiling a million loo rolls, tins of beans or antibacterial hand washes (shockingly as I am notoriously obsessive-compulsive!) This was for two reasons:
1). We hate to waste food so, my husband or I, like most families, stick to a list and pop to the supermarket once a week, and, throughout the week, nip to the local shop for milk/bread/chocolate/fruit (for our two mini gorillas) or whatever we may have run out of.
2). We can’t afford and, don’t have the space for, the aforementioned million loo rolls/tins or beans/hand wash. So, what happens when you can’t leave the house?
I’ll give you a bit of a background to my glamorous story… I have had moderate/severe Rheumatoid Arthritis since I was 19 and I am now — well not 19 but let’s just say it has been a long time! Thankfully it is now under control, and I am not affected much by symptoms, however, I am classed as immunosuppressed because the biological medication I take. Due to this I am in the now named ‘shielded group’.
You still with me? Good!
I received a phone call and two letters in March (likely because I’m not great at taking medical advice, but I like to think it’s because they love me…) to say I should not leave the house for 12 weeks. To put it simply, no shops, no long walk daily, no real face to face contact with the outside world except waving and shouting “Hi” over the garden gate or fence.
There also comes a list of guidelines if you live with others. Amongst these are to eat/sleep in a separate room as much as possible, clean the bathroom before you use it, stay two metres apart from everyone in your household, basically live separate lives for three months. This is not possible with two young children (I can’t imagine not hugging my children for 3 months, let alone the fact that they generally sneak into bed and cuddle us during the night) so, under medical advice, we were all shielding as a family group.
We are fortunate that remote working is an option; however, getting food was a completely different story!! Of course, we have family and friends nearby, however, I was concerned by the number of trips to supermarkets my mum was doing. Despite my protestations to only get our groceries when she was doing her own shopping once a week, she insisted on going every time I mentioned I was running low on something (I think I may get my stubbornness from her). In hindsight, I think it was so she could see us more often in this surreal situation, which I love her for, but it didn’t sit comfortably with me at all.
We couldn’t get a “big shop” delivery for love or money (we were talking a five-week wait unless you sat up all night on the shopping app in the hope that you may secure a space in two weeks) – this was before all the local businesses delivery services launched. I had two options either; become very creative with pasta and cereal for every meal or, continue to let my parents shop for us for the foreseeable future… I wasn’t prepared to do either.
Thankfully, I came across COVID-19 Community Support by sheer chance when I was searching online in desperation and it was a LIFESAVER (possibly literally, who knows?). The process of registering for support was so easy via a quick online form on the website and I was emailed back the same day with details of our volunteer.
Becky is absolutely fantastic! All credit to her, at the beginning she was doing our “big shops” as well as prescriptions, runs to get essentials, the list goes on but still, there was never any hesitation from her. The communication was, and still is, so easy.
Thankfully I eventually got priority shopping slots and we are also able to use local companies for deliveries so I didn’t need to pester her quite so much as at the beginning!
At the onset of this whole situation I felt entirely useless, and, if I am honest, I still feel really guilty as it was my condition isolating my entire family from the outside world for three months (they, of course, didn’t see it like that but Mummy guilt is real!).
I wanted to see if I could do something to give back to the community and I asked Sarah if there was anything I could do as a volunteer from home, perhaps giving people a friendly call to check in on them, a bit of admin to help out the already rapidly growing group of volunteers.
So, at the beginning of April, I registered to be a volunteer myself on the website I had previously used to request support. I am now very proud to be part of a wonderful team that is Community Calling.
Q4. What is the biggest challenge you have faced since the world went into lockdown?
Please see Q3, I won’t put you through that again!!!
Q5. Are you excited about any opportunities that have arisen this year?
Every chance I have had to help someone as part of Community Calling has been exciting for me! I have also had the opportunity to meet the best group of people!
Q6. How are things looking for the remainder of 2020?
Things look awesome. Community Calling is taking off, and we get to follow our passion for helping others while having that essential work/life balance… (well.. that part might take a bit of work, we are all pretty focussed!!).