Many members of the community need assistance during these tough times, and so far the goodwill and effort of volunteers has been incredible. If you’d like to lend a hand, the following groups and programmes are a good place to start.
You can sign up to be an NHS Volunteer Responder on the GoodSAM website. Possible roles include collecting shopping and other essentials for those who are self-isolating, transporting medical patients who have been discharged back to their homes, assisting with medication delivery and transport, and providing telephone support. Volunteers must be 18 or over, and fit and well with no symptoms - the majority of tasks can be undertaken while social distancing. Once signed up, just switch to 'On Duty' on the app and you'll be able to see tasks that need doing nearby.
Oxford Together is Oxford Hub's initiative to build a community response to COVID-19. You can become a community champion and help check on those on your street who are high-risk, or become a phone champion and touch base with those who are self-isolating – sign up here.
Another locally-run volunteer organisation worth being aware of is The Help Hub, a project set up with the aim of bringing people together during the COVID-19 crisis. The Help Hub has recruited volunteer therapists and counsellors and will offer 20 minute chats on Skype, FaceTime or on the telephone to those who are feeling isolated or anxious. If you're a qualified therapist and would like to volunteer, you can do so here. The Help Hub also want local community volunteers to lend a hand, mainly around Woodstock, and you can find out more about that on their their Facebook page.
Oxford City Farm have suspended their drop-in sessions, but still need volunteers to help keep up planned planting and harvesting. There are some criteria regarding who can get involved – find out more and sign up if you’re eligible.
Benson-based support organisation Style Acre help those with learning disabilities at social hubs and in supported housing. If you’re available, you can help ensure that Style Acre can continue to work at full capacity – more information on the organisation’s Facebook page.
The Porch have launched their COVID-19 Response Fund to support the homeless and vulnerably housed through the coronavirus crisis. The Porch are closing their day centre but need donations from the public to help them maintain daily deliveries of meals and essential toiletries as well as welfare checks and other services.
It's a difficult time for lots of people, including those working in the hospitality sector whose jobs and income are uncertain as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. TiPJAR is a not-for-profit initiative which aims to support those most in need, offering grants through charity partner Hospitality Action. You can donate to the campaign to support hospitality workers here.
How to help the places you love
With COVID-19 affecting venues across Oxford and Oxfordshire, and closures and cancellations taking their toll, now would be a good time to help out the places you love.
It’s easy to become a friend and member of theatres such as the Old Fire Station, North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford Playhouse, the Watermill Theatre, and Cornerstone Arts Centre. Each of these comes with benefits, such as discounts and the ability to book tickets, which you can all use when things return to normal. You can also donate to the Pegasus Theatre and maybe buy that special someone a lockdown gift from the Old Fire Station’s online shop, or make a direct contribution through their emergency fund. Similarly, the team at The Theatre Chipping Norton have started their Head Above Water campaign, and need your donations to continue to bring theatre and joy to the people of Chippy.
Oxford is home to a number of cinemas that screen smaller indie fare, as well as some of the best films the world has to offer. Both the Phoenix Picturehouse and the Curzon in Westgate offer memberships. But the cinema that really needs our love is the independently-owned Ultimate Picture Palace. Get a membership and prepare yourself to enjoy cinema again.
The hospitality industry will be particularly badly hit right now, so if they're not doing takeaway, why not pick your favourite eatery and buy a gift card for them, to use when things are back to some degree of normality? You will also soon be able to buy a Tap Social gift card and continue to support this amazing cause.
These are all fantastic venues worthy of your love and, particularly right now, support. So pick as many as you feel you can support (we all have limited finances) and help out our friends in the arts world.