Residents in areas like Ballycastle in North Mayo are used to an element of social distancing given the scattered nature of rural housing, but throughout the Covid-19 lockdown local service providers are going the extra mile to maintain contact with vulnerable groups.
The daycare centre at Suifinn Way housing estate is a vital social outlet for elderly residents and other senior residents of the area. While it has had to close to the public due to the Covid-19 lockdown, one of its most vital services — meals on wheels — has continued.
Suífinn manager, Nuala Delaney-Whelan, says the service has experienced a 25 per cent increase in users since the lockdown was initiated and staff are going the extra mile to let service users know that people are thinking of them with such thoughtful gestures as giving out free Easter eggs, sending reassuring postcards and Mother’s Day cards and collecting shopping etc.
Nuala explained that similar care is being demonstrated for the community’s youngest members — the pupils of the local playschool. The lockdown has been a dramatic experience for them too. They have been pulled out of their familiar daily routines and away from their friends.
With this in mind, Nuala, who is the playschool’s treasurer, has worked with its leader, Julie McDonnell, to maintain contact with the children. A WhatsApp group has been established for parents and at Easter the children recorded Facebook video greetings for their playschool friends.
A touching display of heart-shaped messages to students has also been placed in the playschool window and, last week, Julie marked the playschool’s Cookie Friday tradition by delivering cookies to the children’s homes.
Nuala stressed that while Ballycastle has always had a strong sense of community, the lockdown has magnified its tradition of caring for its most vulnerable.