As another round of lockdown measures take effect, HIP catches up with Alastair Fairley, one of the joint co-ordinators at HEART (Hastings Emergency Action Resilience Team) which did so much to help the community through the first.

How is HEART responding to this lockdown and how does it differ from the last?
HEART has never stopped working since we started in March, although obviously things tailed off a lot in the summer. This time around things are a lot better set up – shops and pharmacies have delivery services and people are more prepared with masks and safer practices to venture outdoors. Having said that, we’re still here to give people the support where it’s needed. All people need to do is visit our website and fill in a short form.

Alastair Fairley shopping for isolated people

Hastings has witnessed a very low incidence of Covid-19. Do you know why that is?
There are a number of theories which are being explored right now by Sussex University researchers. What we do know is that, if the virus did take hold in Hastings, it could present very serious problems given the relatively poor health of our community. That’s why we have to stay vigilant, follow all the guidance, and support people to stay at home if they need us.

The first lockdown required numerous agencies to collaborate in co-ordinating things. Is that all still going on?
Yes, very much so. HEART was a founding member of the Community Hub which brings all those agencies together, including the NHS, the local Council, the Foodbank – all sorts of key organisations. It’s still meeting every week, and HEART volunteers have helped almost all of them in some way. It’s been an amazing response.

Lots of people have gone back to work. Are people still willing to volunteer?
Yes, many of our volunteers are back working and, even if they’re not, they are either trying to find work or have busy lives generally. But we also know people still want to help others. That’s why it’s important that we learn more about people’s availability – we want to work around them.

It sounds like you’re in this for the long-haul. Is HEART aiming to keep going beyond this pandemic?
We certainly hope to. Over 3,000 people support us on Facebook and over 1,000 of those stepped forward as volunteers to help others in the community directly. We feel a responsibility to do what we can as an organisation to keep all that going – let’s face it, everyone is going to need a bit of help in the coming months and years. 

So what are you doing right now to make that happen? 
A great deal. We’re still re-sponding to enquiries and supporting people with practical help, as well as matching volunteers with other agencies to help keep their services going too. But we’re also doing a lot of work in the background, like redesigning our website to make it easier to access help
and volunteer, as well as fund-raising to meet our costs going forward.

That sounds like a lot of work. Do you need help yourselves?
Most definitely! Our team is amazing, but we’ve been flat out for months and could really do with some additional helpers to keep doing what we know is needed. We’re working on that right now, but if anyone would like to help, we’d love to hear from them. 

How can people do that?
The easiest way is to email us at [email protected] We know people want to help the community but we know that, to do that, we also need a bit of help at HEART too. It’s definitely a buzz.

If you need practical help during lockdown, or know someone that does, visit and complete a short form.  

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