Covid Community Champions needed to help keep County Durham safe and informed
Some of County Durham's first Covid Community Champions have shared what motivated them to sign up to the scheme following its official launch.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have supported communities to stay up to date with the latest coronavirus information and guidance. The Covid Community Champion programme builds upon this and the work of the voluntary and community sector (VCS), empowering individuals, groups and organisations to share key messages in their communities. This is achieved by encouraging and supporting people to become trusted voices in their local area so that they can help us pass on important information and guidance needed to keep communities safe.
The programme was officially launched by Cllr Lucy Hovvels, our Cabinet member for adults and health, at the Health and Wellbeing Board meeting today (Tuesday 24 November). However, we previously introduced the scheme at ourvirtual Better for Everyone public engagement sessions, which all 14 of our Area Action Partnerships have hosted since the beginning of October. During these meetings, 59 people expressed an interest in becoming a Covid Community Champion and since then, 27 people have signed up.
To find out more about the programme and to sign up, visit the Covid Community Champions page.
Giving something backAmong the first recruits is Khalil Alloqa, who moved to Durham City to study at Durham Business School.
He said: "I approached this challenging year as an opportunity to get involved in charitable initiatives and to explore new ways of enjoying life by making a difference in the life of surrounding communities. I trust that being part of the Covid Community Champions programme will enable me to give back to the beautiful city of Durham that hosted me during my studies by lending a helping hand effectively to the most vulnerable."
Those who sign up to the programme are encouraged to develop the role to suit their own circumstances and the needs of their community.
There are two options, Champions and Champions Plus, with everyone who signs up offered support, training and regular opportunities to meet up and share ideas and experiences.
Those opting to take part in the Champions Plus programme can chose to carry out additional duties, including sharing information at events, and helping local VCS organisations.
Champions Plus volunteers will also receive extra training.
Kirsty Gent, from Brignall, near Barnard Castle, heard about the programme after volunteering for the council and NHS Volunteer Responders at the start of the first lockdown in March.
She said: "I felt that I wanted to be involved in this role as hopefully I am able to do something positive for the community in which I live.
"This is achieved by passing on key messages and information about Covid-19, ensuring people are aware of and are up to date with local guidance during an uncertain and ever-changing time."
Cllr Hovvels said: "Making sure our residents have accurate information and advice is crucial to keeping people safe and reducing the infection rate. This has been a priority for the council since the start of the pandemic and by launching our Covid Community Champions programme, we hope to connect with even more residents.
"We are incredibly grateful to Khalil and Kirsty and everyone else who has signed up so far. By volunteering their time in this way, they are making a significant contribution to the fight against coronavirus and helping to ensure their communities stay safe and well.
"Anybody can become a Covid Community Champion. You don't need to belong to any clubs or groups or have children in school - if you're in touch with your friends, family, people in your community or workplace we would like your help."
Working with our partners
We are also keen to recruit champions from partner organisations such as town and parish councillors, faith groups, Covid Mutual Aid Groups, schools, leisure centres, businesses involved in the Better Health at Work Award and VCS organisations. We will also be promoting the scheme among our own workforce, the NHS, housing providers and the emergency services.