Community groups conquer COVID-19

After flying more than 20 hours from Perth to England to escape another day of domestic torture, the little boy’s most prized possession was nowhere to be seen. His mother was frantically panicking that her three-year-old son may never see the Buzz Lightyear doll that made his eyes glisten again. A simple post in a community Facebook group was her last option to help replace the childhood toy. 

Little did the boy know, help was on its way. Jamie Moody may not be your stereotypical hero, his body painted in tattoos, face covered by a beard and driving a Harley Davidson, but his delivery was priceless. As he approached the home an elderly woman hesitantly pulled back the door, but allowed him to enter, knowing what he had brought. Moody revealed a full set of Toy Story dolls to the young boy sitting on the lounge floor. Jamie glanced over to the boy’s mother and grandmother, their eyes glassy, with tears streaming like waterfalls staring back at him. He was worried he had overstepped his mark. This feeling was immediately erased when he was suddenly embraced by the little boy’s grandmother. “That hug was worth more than anything I could have given,” Moody said.

After a devastating period in his life, losing his mother to cancer, Moody was in a doleful head space for quite some time. One afternoon as he sat on the numbing bathroom floor, surrounded by a puddle of his own tears, an idea sparked in his head. He thought to himself, “to help yourself you need to help someone else”. That was the day the Aussies Helping Aussies group was created.

Aussies Helping Aussies is a Facebook group that was created in 2015 and is dedicated to Moody’s mother. With a growing number of 6470 members, people volunteer their time and effort to help those in need. “We ask no one to give more than they are willing to and people asking for help are free to request help anytime,” Moody said. Posts are monitored daily by six administrative members and members also have the option of posting anonymously if they wish to seek help or donate this way. “I have seen some of the most generous gestures performed by our members, donations of new white goods and rebuilt kitchens,” he said.

Example of the types of service members of Aussies Helping Aussies are offering the community.

As suggested by David Susman, a clinical psychologist, mental health advocate and professor, support groups are recommended and have various benefits. As the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic that has turned the lives of many upside down, more support groups are being formed to assist others in the community. Aussies Helping Aussies has continued to provide support to Australians during this time and are persevering to help as many people as possible.

Example of the generosity of members in the Aussies Helping Aussies Facebook group.

West Australian journalist and corporate communications worker, Rueben Hale, has also found himself trapped within the walls of his own home as a repercussion of COVID-19. In a time of such uncertainty, Hale believes the community needs help now, more than ever, and wanted to use the skills he has to do so.

This was the beginning of the ‘How Can I Help You?’ Facebook group. The goal of the group is to  “provide useful information and support our friends,” Hale said.

Hale has used his journalistic talents to inform members of the group with stories about skin care, home gardening, cooking and culture, as well as directing them to websites that can also deepen their knowledge in these areas. Another important element of the group is providing job leads for those who are out of work because of COVID-19, as it was predicted by the Government that 1 million people will lose their jobs.

Founder of ‘How Can I Help You?’ Facebook group, Rueben Hale. Photo supplied.

Through reconnecting with an old friend at a school reunion, Hale was able to provide a young woman with a job opportunity. She had courageously posted in the ‘How Can I Help You?’ group, desperately seeking employment. At the time, she was not able to earn money to pay for her university fees. Hale’s friend had connections to the recruitment team at ALDI who let the group know about an array future of job opportunities. “They didn’t want to put it out too far because they didn’t want to be inundated with applications,” Hale said. The young woman was able to start immediately, packing shelves and earning really good money.

‘How Can I Help You?’ Facebook group logo. Photo supplied.

Although this group was created in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hale believes that groups such as these can survive beyond this time as “people always need help”.

Terry Fisher, who was graciously helped by Moody’s group while he was battling illness and dealing with trauma, agrees and says “not one day goes by where someone isn’t helped, not one day goes by where someone hasn’t found a friend in need on that page.”

The World Health Organisation suggests that during this time, assisting and supporting others in your community can benefit both parties. Further, one of Lifeline’s coping mechanism recommendations is to join local community social media groups in order to stay informed about what is going on as well as be able to help those in need or connect with people that are struggling due to COVID-19. The Lifeline website also suggests that showing compassion and kindness to one another can assist in coping with social distancing as it improves mental wellbeing and creates a sense of togetherness, free of discrimination.

The Australian Department of Health website says that “being part of a community can have a positive effect on mental health and emotional wellbeing.” More specifically, communication through online forums and social media can decrease the risk of suffering from mental illness. According to the Department of Health, approximately one third of Australians are not involved in any social or community groups.

These groups have had major successes in offering support and helping others at a time of crisis in their lives. Communities are coming together to assist each other, and the number of groups are increasing every day.

Moody vouches for the positivity these groups can bring, even if it is simply through a plastic Buzz Lightyear doll, explaining that “the world focuses on all the bad going on, but Aussies Helping Aussies has helped me to see the good.”