Throughout the COVID-19 health pandemic, there have been many examples of our communities responding to the exceptional circumstances to help those in need. Here, LAMP Fermanagh shares its story.

LAMP, Mullaghdun and Letterbreen Partnership a cross community groups in West Fermanagh deliver emergency boxes that will help the community stop the spread of infection, empower families by providing necessary resources and help GP’s monitor patients.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Advice on Preparing Communities indicated the need for a community survey and conversations to identify what the community knew and what might be needed. It became apparent that if the virus started in a family home that the family did not have the information or resources they needed to try to stop the virus spreading in their family home. This led us to develop the Community Boxes. The boxes contain a booklet with the European Centre for Disease Control and WHO information along-side practical guidance developed with local nurses on how to use the resources in the box to help stop the spread in a family home.

A study from a region in China showed 85% of clusters of infection were in family homes. It is very important we ensure families in our community have both the knowledge and the resources to help them limit the spread of the virus in their home. This is important for the family, who also may have an intergenerational home or at risk people, as well as for medical professionals needing less patients, and lowering risks in our community. It is vital that families in our community get both the information and the resources to help them combat the spread of virus in a family home. The boxes help meet that need.

In Fermanagh we have one of the lowest ratios of GPs in NI. Even before this crisis families could wait a long time to see a GP, even out of hours in a crisis. Our rural isolation and other hidden deprivation and transport issues are also a disadvantage in access to GPs. When this crisis started one GP practice in the area recommended their patients all purchase and Oximeter, Blood Pressure Monitor and a Thermometer to enable them to monitor their patients at home. However several of these items became almost impossible to purchase, take weeks to arrive and prices rose significantly. These factors would have disadvantaged many in urgent need of the items, if the virus started in their home. As it was not possible to say which family homes in our community the virus would start in, we decided it would be best to hold a number of boxes centrally in the community so they are available to community homes as and when the needs arise.

We are working with medical professionals to try to ensure the boxes reach family homes in the community who have the very worrying experience of COVID-19 starting in their family. We hope the boxes will provide what they need to help them protect the person caring for the person who is ill, and the other members of their family who unexpectedly, and worryingly find themselves in an isolated and high risk environment when COVID-19 is in their home.

Some of our volunteers have also been busy making masks for cancer patients attending appointments. We feel this is a very worthwhile cause and are proud of everyone who has helped out.

Thank you to all those who donated items and helped us with this. Too many to list here but please know the people who are getting the boxes at this very worrying time are extremely grateful.

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We are very grateful to all our volunteers and groups from across Fermanagh who have been working extremely hard to grow food for our food banks who are experiencing a 1000% increase in need. Farmers and growers have ploughed, spread, rotavated and planted 2 acres of seed potatoes, ridges of cabbages and taken over several poly tunnels in and outside Enniskillen, planted lots of cabbages, onions, leeks, and other vegetables, built raised beds, moved tonnes of soil into raised beds to grow food for the food bank and are growing a wide variety of vegetables, and will be busy digging potatoes and gathering and storing the harvest this autumn and winter.  We are aiming to get good fresh nutritious food to the foodbanks as we are aware of rising cancer rates and illness in our community and the need for fresh food in Food banks and sustainable community solutions to community needs. We hope to build on this to help and encourage people to grow vegetables without chemicals or pesticides to help lower our cancer rates and improve wellbeing, educating them via social media. We would  like to thank the local and regional businesses who have helped us by donating two ton of seed potatoes, small cabbage and other plants, timber and top soil for raised beds. Also the team at the National Trust at Florencecourt  who donated their produce while ours was still growing as they were closed to visitors and their normal shop was not open. We realise when the furlogh period ends, that many more families will be facing food insecurity and this is going to be a difficult winter and we are being proactive and working together for community health. This pandemic has seen our local community really pull together and relationships are being built upon and strengthened as a result of sharing common need for local food security for our most vulnerable.

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