Gary Boys is just one of many of the fantastic army of volunteers of the Henley Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group looking after residents during these unprecedented times.
Gary works in sales recruitment, a career coach and is a well known DJ in Henley. Gary said, “All my work has dried up because of coronavirus and I thought initially I would join the Samaritans to help as mental health is so important but I heard about the group through Facebook and thought I would channel my support to help more in the Henley community.”
The town has been split into regions and zones and Gary’s area is HC5 helping residents in River Terrace, Hewgate Court and Boathouse Reach. Gary leafleted his streets from the templates provided and set up a Whatsapp group for his area to keep people in touch with each others and to let them know about things happening locally. Gary said, “I enjoy having personal contact with people and part of my job is career coaching so I think one of my strengths is listening and providing guidance to people especially in a crisis.”
After Jane who is 93 received the leaflet through her letterbox, she was on the phone to Gary within five minutes. Gary commented, “Jane’s husband is currently in hospital for a hip replacement and Jane told me she felt isolated and lonely and at her wits end and was slowly slipping into depression but said she feels fit and healthy and when she got the leaflet she said she sat down and cried and was uplifted that someone cared and she felt strong enough to call me as her spirit had been lifted. I thought to myself afterwards despite the sadness maybe some good can come out of this and every street has a Jane, kindness costs nothing and let’s all do our bit to support each other.”
Jane is one of 9 vulnerable residents who are over 85 that Gary is looking after and who he calls every 2 days to check that they are OK and to have a chat with . He has also been helping them to collect prescriptions and any food that they need .
Gary added, “These nine are my priority and I’m amazed they are so strong and positive and have so much to say and learnt so much from them myself and found them all inspiring , I say they must be used to this having lived through the second World War. Jane said, “It’s much worse than that because we knew who the enemy were and knew when the bombs were coming, people still went to school and work. This is an enemy you can’t see and it is more frightening. Gary continued, “Everyone of them though has a great British spirit – they don’t want to beaten, none of them have complained or say that they are not going to get through this. They are just so grateful that someone has picked up the phone to chat to them.”
Many of us are seeing a change on our streets during this difficult times, we are connecting more with people we didn’t know before and reaching out to those who need help. Gary comments, “It’s a shame it has to come to this to make this happen and I like many have had a really hard look at myself and will make some positive changes from this experience. So many people live on their own, it’s taken this for us to reach out to them.” Will we learn from this? Gary replied, “I’m not sure because before everyone was on a fast escalator going mad and this was suddenly stopped. When this is over, I think people will go running at full speed again and forget some of the good things we’ve done. I think though it will make people friendlier. I think we have a long road of recovery ahead of us and there’s big mental health issue which we will need to tackle, it’s not until you have times likes this that you realise how fragile we all are. I certainly though will stay in contact with these people, they are my new best friends and If I can make a difference then anyone can and no one needs to be lonely and the Henley Covid – 19 Mutual Aid Group have done an amazing job in bringing this support together quickly and efficiently and proving yet again what an amazing community we have in Henley.
Gary is also hoping next week to start a nightly disco streaming online with music quizzes every Wednesday and taking personal requests on a Saturday night all for free. Gary said, “It will be like people’s own private jukebox in the comfort of their own home and will start on a Wednesday and Saturday.” We’ll share the link when it’s ready for everyone to enjoy.