A idea that was originally spawned to help fellow members of the Bayside Rugby Club has morphed into a effort aimed to assist the entire community during the COVID-19 crisis.
Earlier this week, the Semiahmoo Peninsula-based organization created a Facebook group, Bayside Community Quarantine Assistance, that aims to connect people in need – both in South Surrey/White Rock and beyond – with those willing to help during this period of self-isolation and social distancing. The group is public and can be found on Facebook by searching for it by name.
The group, club president Kevin Whitmarsh explained, was the brainchild of Bayside’s junior rugby director, Andrew Fiddis, in light of hearing the news about Earl Marriott Secondary’s senior boys rugby team that had been trying to find its way home from the U.K. after an aborted European rugby tour last week.
A handful of young Cloverdale players from Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary also recently returned home from overseas, after their trip was cut short.
“On Monday, he kind of brought up the idea because a lot of our junior players were on that (Earl Marriott) rugby trip that got turned around,” Whitmarsh explained.
“So the group started kind of focused on just the club – and was a way for people to (communicate) without inundating our main club’s page – but with rugby, you kind of quickly realize that your social circles are pretty big, and we did need help, we aren’t necessarily the ones who would be without connections.
“We know a lot of people who are able and willing to help each other, and that’s when someone on the page said, ‘Hey, can I share this further?’ I imagine there are people out there who don’t have quite the social circle and (support) that we have, and hopefully this is a way to help them.
“It helps create a link.”
An announcement at the top of the page reads: “Many folks in our community are required to self-isolate after travelling or will need to in the future. We wanted to make a space for people who need help to ask and be connected with those who can help. Whether it’s an important errand or a grocery run or an elderly neighbour needs help, hopefully we can make the connection.”
The group grew quickly beyond the borders of Bayside – “It was up to about 200 people in the first three days,” Whitmarsh said – and offers to help rolled in, with many people simply posting what city or neighbourhood they lived or worked in, should anyone in those communities need a hand.
“It went out to a much wider group than we expected,” he said.
Whitmarsh acknowledged that many residents who might need a helping hand – seniors specifically – might not actually be on Facebook, but he hoped through “virtual word-of-mouth,” those willing to help would able to connect with those who may be in need.
“We don’t have a centralized email address or phone number or anything, but the hope is that someone within a connection or two of a person in need will be able to find us.”
So far, it’s been working as planned. On Thursday, one group member posted that her mother “may need some help in the next few days. I told her about this group and she was amazed and grateful that so many people are volunteering their time to help out… she was on the verge of tears. She’s in the Guildford area.”
That same hour, another group member left a comment saying she lived in the area and could lend a hand.
Whitmarsh said other offers have been made to help those as far afield as Vernon.
Though the main goal of the group has been to help people, there has also been a supplemental benefit, Whitmarsh noted – helping people has given a lot of Bayside club members something to do.
“We’re a group of people who, typically, have many things to do within the club… people are normally playing, or coaching a team, or helping us run stuff… But all of a sudden, we don’t have those (responsibilities). A lot of people aren’t working either, so they have even more free time,” he said.
“Now people are like, ‘I don’t have work, there’s no rugby – give me a job. We’re like border collies – we want a job to do, we need a purpose. We’re dogs who need jobs.”