By Danae Savvidou
When I contracted suspected coronavirus on my daughter’s birthday in March, my neighbours slipped their phone numbers under my door. This sounds like a simple act but hearing their voices through the door was like a cozy blanket being wrapped around my achey, fatigued body. After my time in isolation was up, I went into my local Co-op and the cashier I normally have a chat with mentioned she hadn’t seen me in a while. Living in a community, where your absence is noted by someone you’ve never really introduced yourself to but chat to every day is an enormous privilege. Especially as some days when my daughter was a baby that woman was the only conversation I had all day.
I live in Dursley, which often doesn’t get the credit it deserves. It’s often used as the butt of jokes as a town which is a bit rough. Perhaps we’re not as eccentric as our Stroud neighbours and not as chocolate boxey as the surrounding villages, but our town is beautiful in its own way. Walking down Dursley highstreet, if you raise your gaze above the buildings we’re surrounded by nature.
I value our sense of community here, which is why it makes me very sad when I see vital services being closed down for different reasons. The closure of Treetops Nursery will create great difficulty to the growing numbers of young families which already struggle to find adequate childcare in the area, especially for those who don’t have a car. It’s not enough to say there are enough childcare settings within a three mile radius when some of them such as Coaley would take over an hour to get to by bus. Likewise the closure of the last remaining banks on our highstreet will cause additional stress to business owners who are already facing uncertainty at this unpredictable time.
What I’ve found heartening is the way our community comes together when faced with difficult times. When the closure of Treetops was announced another parent and I started a petition to try and save it. It racked up nearly 500 signatures in a matter of days. Many people turned up to have their picture taken in family groups for the Gazette.
The response to Covid-19 was unprecedented. Hundreds of people signed up to volunteer with GL11 Community Hub in Cam which provided a centralised approach to supporting local residents. The Dursley Area Covid 19 Community Response Facebook Group was set up so people needing help could ask for it and others could offer it.
We are lucky enough to have some fantastic community leaders. When it became apparent the government wasn’t going to take action on half term hunger, Dursley District Councillor and District Council Leader Doina Cornell showed strong leadership driven by principles in pulling councils together to ensure no child went hungry during half-term.
As we move into our second lockdown, coronavirus has taught me that we all possess an individual responsibility to create a society that we can all lean into when we need it. Whether it’s through acts of philanthropy like GL11, or through demonstrations of compassion for one another like my neighbours, through a strong community we can find a sense of purpose, connection and meaning in our lives.
While I bring my daughter up to be a compassionate and responsible person, it’s a great comfort to me that the place we live in echoes those values. Dursley offers the no-nonsense, no questions asked approach to community we can all learn from.