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Inside the Westcountry's 'most caring village'

Ian Gall, organiser of the Marnhull Village Helpline

More than 70 residents in the North Dorset village of Marnhull have come together to make sure the vulnerable, self-isolated and elderly have a way of asking for help with everyday things like shopping, walking the dog, collecting medication and advice.

The newly-created Marnhull Village Helpline is a dedicated telephone number which is open from 8am until 8pm every day - with an answerphone service outside those times- to respond to requests for help from anyone in the village or the immediate surrounding area.

There is also an email address, for those who prefer to make contact online.

The calls and emails are 'triaged' by a rota of seven coordinators and the requests for help are either forwarded to one of the volunteers to assist, or the caller will be referred to an appropriate organisation. 

The team have links with the Volunteer Centre and local GP practice amongst others.

Ian Gall, organiser of the Marnhull Village Helpline, said: "Facebook was used to recruit local volunteers. But as it was likely that the more vulnerable in the village and those probably in most need of help were not internet or social media users, we had to find an effective way of telling them, that help was available. 

"So we produced a leaflet about the Helpline, as well as the current Government and NHS advice which was delivered with the Marnhull Messenger, reaching every home in the village.

"We followed this up with a second leaflet delivery two weeks later, as well as asking all volunteers to make sure that any vulnerable neighbour or friend was aware of the Helpline.

"After just over two weeks of operation we have received seventy calls, helping around sixty villagers. Whilst the most calls have been to collect medication and shopping, we’ve also been able to reinforce the importance of staying at home and keeping safe.

"We have weekly video calls with groups of volunteers, to keep everyone up to date and to share experience and ideas. This is becoming the highlight of the week for many!

"Marnhull is a caring and connected village and setting up the Helpline was in no way meant to reinvent the wheel, we are simply adding more spokes to strengthen the wheel of care in the village and trying to do that in a coordinated and consistent way.

"When this is over, we’re certain the world will be a kinder place and there will be a good few more people in the village who will be involved in caring for others."

The helpline is 01305 490000 or via marnhullcovidhelp@gmail.com

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