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Haverhill's community rallies in the face of coronavirus outbreak

With the coronavirus pandemic now causing widespread disruption in our society, a few thoughtful individuals have devised ways to help ease the plight of those most affected in Haverhill and the surrounding communities.

Haverhill woman Kirsty Ashman, 28, has created a Facebook group called Let’s Get Through COVID-19 Together – Haverhill, Suffolk. It already has more than 1,630 members.

Kirsty, who is severely disabled herself and is now self-isolating, said of the group: “It is a communication effort based on ensuring that local charities such as Reach have all the supplies they need to deal with the economical fall out, and to remind people to knock on the doors of those in their neighbourhood who are vulnerable and may be self isolating and checking that they are okay.”

Kirsty Ashman. Contributed picture
Kirsty Ashman. Contributed picture

Thurlow-based one-to-one athlete coach Kelly Mepham and her friend Vashti MacDonald-Clink have also come up with an idea for local runners – called Help on the Run – to help out people that are in need of help while out on their usual running routes.

Kirsty has respiratory failure and chronic respiratory infections, which means her lung function is at about 30 per cent and she relies on oxygen and a non invasive ventilator to help her breathe.

Kirsty requires frequent courses of IV antibiotics to help keep the infection under control and prevent any further drop in her lung function.

Kelly Mepham, picture by Nick Webster
Kelly Mepham, picture by Nick Webster

She also has other problems that have been caused by the medication given to treat her lungs, such as hypertension, diabetes and adrenal failure.

Her situation means she feels more keenly than most the need to help others who are self-isolating.

She said: “Any one of those illnesses would be enough to make anyone high risk, but the combination of all of them makes the risk so high I would have to have a death wish to go outside.

Vashti MacDonald-Clink, joint creator of Help on the Run. Contributed picture
Vashti MacDonald-Clink, joint creator of Help on the Run. Contributed picture

“It certainly is a scary time, as I know how high risk I am.

“I saw how scared and stressed people are, but how so many people also wanted to help, and just didn’t know how.

“So I decided to try and coordinate the community effort. I can’t get out and help, so this is a great way to help.

Kelly Mepham, joint creator of Help of the Run. Picture by Nick Webster
Kelly Mepham, joint creator of Help of the Run. Picture by Nick Webster

“The amount of people who want to help has been overwhelming, and really shows just how great the community in this town is.

“We are really focusing on supporting those who can’t get out with delivering parcels etc, making sure that Reach and the foodbank have everything they need and then reaching out to those who are elderly and may not have anyone to help them.”

While Help on the Run is not yet launched, Kelly, whose business is called Kelly Health and Fitness, hopes to get the logistics of it sorted out in the next few days.

She said the idea stemmed from many conversations with regular runners who were now without any races to run in as they had all been cancelled due to coronavirus.

It was Vashti who suggested, said Kelly, ‘doing something with running that helps the older people who will be isolating themselves’.

Kelly said: “I was saying to my friend that we need to find a way of helping runners to keep their mojo and of keeping them focused.

“It will keep the runners running and it is making use of the fittest of us in society to help the people who are least well.”

Once route maps and other details have been agreed the initiative is good to go.

Kelly said: “There are so many people who want to help.

“I reckon I’ve already got 50 volunteers who have said they can help. It is amazing. There is a massive running community in Haverhill.”

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