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Highland communities share their humanitarian responses to Covid-19 crisis

Jon Palmer
Jon Palmer,who runs the Cheese House in Cromarty, is chairman of Black Isle Partnership. Picture by Sandy McCook.

Communities across the Highlands have been hailed for their “immediate and impressive” response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Local people, charities and other third sector organisations have all come together to support those challenged by lockdown and the virus.

And Highland councillors this week heard from an array of groups who have all played their part – and continue to do so – and witnessed significant sacrifice and selfless hard work.

The Black Isle Partnership (BIC) was the anchor organisation selected to distribute Supporting Communities funds.

Chairman Jon Palmer said things had happened quickly on the ground, with a particular focus on supporting businesses and looking after residents’ wellbeing.

“The local response was immediate and impressive,” he said, adding that efforts were now shifting as lockdown eases.

“A  campaign now is underway as more visitors start to arrive on the Black Isle.

“It promotes four key messages – support local businesses, respect local needs, stay apart and keep connected.”

Black Isle, Dingwall and Seaforth committee chairman, councillor Gordon Adam, said: “We have all had to react quickly and be very flexible and creative.

“I have found it inspiring to hear how close coordination, cooperation and new bonds are being formed which will play a very positive role as we look to the future.

“There is no doubt we are in very challenging times, but without all the community volunteer support and the support of our partners, the picture would look a lot grimmer.”

In Sutherland, councillor Richard Gale praised the many organisations involved in creating a bespoke local response.

“It is really important we get a full understanding of what can be achieved in communities during an emergency.

“Sutherland always steps up to the mark when we are faced with a challenge, responding positively, flexibly and in a bespoke manner for each of its communities.

“Every organisation involved has done what was needed in their own community and we are very grateful to each and every one of them for the work they have done throughout this very difficult and challenging time.”

In Wester Ross, the Ullapool Hub was one of ten regional centres open five-days-a-week  to provide support to the most vulnerable.

Its work was complemented by vans based in Gairloch, Glenelg and Lairg, which took support on the road to where it was most needed.

In Lochalsh, the community trust brought community councils and groups together to work as one.

A helpline was set-up and, working with the Co-op, the partners redistributed £18,000 of food which would otherwise have been wasted.

They also established a voucher scheme to help local families and started taking steps to support mental health.

Area chairman, councillor Ian Cockburn, said: “Our communities have really rallied and provided invaluable support.

“Their terrific efforts and the important role they are playing in helping everyone, especially the most vulnerable, has really come to the fore in the last few months.

“There is going to be on-going pressure to maintain this support, but with such a strong team and the momentum that has built up, I am sure solutions will be found.”

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