Stories from the crisis

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Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I’m Nina and I live in Brixton. I’ve set up home with my husband in the flat that I grew up in as a kid. So, when I say Brixton is my home, I truly mean it!

I am an actress and trained yoga instructor, and before Covid19 I spent most of my days auditioning for new potential roles, awaiting the next job.

Like the rest of the world, the industry has been put on hold, theatre and television shows are not currently being made, so for now the auditions have dried up.

Dinner times with my husband have become the most exciting thing of the day…Weekly date nights in the living room are now particularly special!

What prompted you to start volunteering at CHIPS? 

At the start of the pandemic I felt very helpless as to how I could help those affected most by the crisis. I tried to sign up to other charities, but found that most places I looked were already over-staffed.

I then found out about Mutual Aid Lambeth and saw an ad recruiting volunteers for CHIPS. I emailed and got a response back the same day!

What have you been focusing on in your volunteering work with CHIPS? 

I work on family support.  Each Monday morning, I ring my family and check in with how they’re getting on.

I’ve helped them with grocery shops, with the sourcing of a borrowed laptop which means the eldest can now carry on with her GCSE course work (fingers crossed the government pulls through with funding so they can have their own!), and just as importantly I’m a listening ear, someone to talk to and to just have general chit-chat with. In some ways you could say, to be a friend.

Why is the work CHIPS is doing so important right now? 

Due to Covid, the whole world is facing challenges in some way or another. But I do feel that it has a greater impact on poorer communities.

Children who rely on free school meals don’t have them now that the schools are closed. Many families in Brixton also live in flats, they don’t have the luxury of gardens. Simple things like not getting enough fresh air and being cooped up for so long can have an effect on mental health and wellbeing.

That’s why I feel that being able to provide support either with a weekly call, or by helping out with basic needs such as food, is so important right now.

What has been your personal highlight of the work so far? 

I think my personal highlight so far has been noticing the growing openness from my family towards me. 

We have never seen each other, only ever spoken on the phone. And it’s so encouraging to see that week by week, the distance and lack of trust at the ‘stranger on the phone’ is gradually fading and now space is opening up for more of an understanding with each other.

It feels good to know that, even though you may not have put the world to rights by the end of your call, you have in some way made a difference. Just by being there, by being available, and by being present!