Coronavirus: Church post inspires Good Samaritans to help isolating older people

St James Parish Church in the Moy, Dungannon
St James Parish Church in the Moy, Dungannon

A church in Co Tyrone has introduced a ‘buddy system’ to check on parishioners who are over 70 and isolating because of the coronavirus.

St James Parish Church in the Moy, Dungannon appealed for help from younger church members via Facebook on Tuesday and within a few hours a dozen or so volunteers had come forward.

The Church of Ireland church which itself is closed for services to combat the spread of Covid-19 asked for three things from volunteers who would be paired up with an elderly person from the church who had asked for help:

• to phone your buddy one to two times per week to check that they are okay

• to ask if they need any assistance with groceries or medication supplies

• and to assure your buddy that you will be there for them should they need you

Minister of St James Parish Church, Rev Aonghus Mayes said: “The buddy system was the brainchild of Georgia Hamill – a parishioner in her early twenties – who manages the parish Facebook page.

“Following the social distancing guidelines introduced by the government, those who are over 70 and don’t have children living with them and have agreed, will be teamed-up with a ‘buddy’ who will simply telephone once or twice a week to check that they’re okay, ask if they need any practical help such as picking-up groceries or medication, and finally just to assure them that they’re there for them should they need anything.

“The post asking for volunteers only went up on Tuesday, so people will be paired in the coming days, but around a dozen or so people volunteered within the first few hours and, so far, in a parish of 170 households around 20 have availed of this scheme.

He continued: “Most parishioners are fortunate in having children or extended family who live in the area, but these government measures are likely to be in place for some time and so this a reassuring back-up for many people so that they don’t feel either isolated or stuck for essentials particularly if they find their own family has to self-isolate over the coming weeks.”

Georgia, who came up with the idea of the buddy system, wrote on the church’s Facebook page: “As a Church family we need to work together as a team and look out for each other because that’s what families do.

“If we pair up, we have someone to lean on, someone for reassurance and support in these challenging times.”

The Church of Ireland announced to their clergy on Tuesday that all services and parish activities in Northern Ireland are suspended until further notice to tackle the coronavirus. The Methodist and Presbyterian Churches did likewise yesterday.