Since the Centre opened its doors in 2011, Redmond Community Centre has been providing space and collaborating with local organisations and residents to deliver community services. Services and events from “Confidence Academy for Mums” to the much loved and popular “Hidden River Festival” have created lasting benefits and showcased the thriving Woodberry Down community. But this year (2020), the landscape of the estate and the country has changed drastically beyond comprehension.

While COVID-19 has affected everyone from all social backgrounds, the community, and the Centre realised quickly that residents from low-income families, who are elderly or suffer underlying health conditions, would suffer the most at the hands of COVID-19.

Neighbours banded together to establish groups through Whatsapp, social media and leaflet dropping, to offer support, from cooking meals to dropping off shopping. Organisations like “The Felix Project” began to take the weight off thinly stretched food banks and family services. The Redmond Community Centre became the base for local groups to come together to deliver urgent COVID-19 projects.

The Redmond Community Centre initially established an emergency food hub fronted by local volunteers and organisations. As referrals for food bags and hot meals started to multiple, the Centre collaborated with Berkeley Homes to turn a once-vacant restaurant into ‘Skyline Emergency Food Hub”. It’s much larger premises allowed for more surplus food to be delivered by the ‘Felix Project and “Thomas Frank”. While local organisations “Barazza” a local catering service, and ‘Sekem Arts’, a local voluntary organisation joined the team to cook up hundreds of hot meals to be delivered by cargo bikes provided by Wheely Tots, right to the doorsteps of Woodberry Down residents. One of the recipients, Chris, who has been receiving the hot meals since April, said of the service.

“It really helps me – and it means I’m able to pay most of the bills. It’s one less thing to worry about. The kids are home 24/7, whereas normally, I’d just be feeding them breakfast and dinner. The deliveries – with lunch and snacks fill that gap. It’s helping me.”

The pandemic has also pushed mental well-being to the brink. These challenging times can be particularly hard on children, with their routines suddenly changed, and interaction with school friends denied, the results will leave children suffering anxiety and depression. Art therapy reduces stress, helps to develop coping strategies, and encourages self-expression, particularly crucial in this unpredictable period.

Along with “Woodberry Down Primary School” to help identify pupils, and funding provided by Mayor’s Fund for London, free art packs, and educational worksheets have been delivered across the estate. The Centre hopes to share the art that’s been created by setting up an online gallery for the community to enjoy. Resident Jackie who is mum to Jaycee who received an art said.

 “The importance of practicing art for someone like Jaycee who has Autism, gives them a voice to express themselves in ways they can’t verbally.”

Mental strain reaches far beyond young households. The loneliness felt by others separated from loved ones, and those with limited access to the internet and phone lines has incredibly harrowing. With many projects that these individuals once attended, such as ‘Cornwainers Grow Embroidery classes’ moving online, this can be even more isolating.

To combat this, MHDT London have launched a new project called ‘Together Digital”. Free tablets are distributed to identified households, to enable contact with loved ones, and to experience enjoyment from participating in online classes like ‘Cornwainers Grow Embroidery classes. With the landscape of how we interact changing rapidly, and with more services adapting and moving online, the Woodberry Down residents must stay connected.

The Redmond Community Centre is fortunate to be able to support a resilient and compassionate community at this time of crisis. The centre and its residents have been able to rally together to ensure these much-needed initiatives are reaching those who face hardships. May such collaboration, here and in other communities, continue long after the lockdown eases to ensure a brighter future.

To follow the centre’s COVID-19 journey, head to the Redmond Community Centre’s website.