Supporting the local community during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we live and work dramatically over a very short period of time. Many organisations are understandably struggling to adapt to these new challenges, however some, like Cedarwood Trust, based in the Meadow Well Estate in North Shields have risen to the challenge.

Voda North Tyneside caught up with Cedarwood’s CEO Wayne Dobson in between his many new tasks to find out more about how they have been able to respond so quickly and what they are doing to support the local community during this crisis.

The Trust began to contingency planning for the outbreak in the last week in January as Wayne became aware of the situation in China and developing around the world. Part of this planning included a gradual adaptation of their daily activities so that they could be responsive in the event of a lockdown.

Wayne commented: “As a small lean and agile charity we can react quickly to emerging needs and for forty years Cedarwood Trust has done that, listening at a grassroots level to the concerns and aspirations of residents not only on the Meadow Well, but also where the families have moved off the estate and into new homes across North Tyneside. These families have not forgotten their roots and the support Cedarwood Trust has provided to them throughout our forty years.”

“Cedarwood Trust is part of the history of the area, with its fortieth anniversary as a charity this year. Initially established by residents before forming as a charity, there was a credit union to alleviate loan sharking and a community co-op store, plus it provided pastoral care and promoted the values of being a good neighbour. This is very much our ethos in following simple Christian values of been a good neighbour to all. And it’s the value of being a good neighbour that informs Cedarwood trust in its present and future.”

The Trust made the decision to stay and walk alongside the community, offering the support that has been a constant from the 1980’s. Wayne was shocked when he saw the level of panic buying which saw the supermarket shelves stripped bare, knowing that this was likely done by people who had financial means to do so. Whereas the majority of people that Cedarwood supports live in persistent poverty and who do not have the means to stockpile or panic buy.

Many residents in the area survive using low budget supermarkets and have to resort to borrowing, loaning and exchanging to feed their families and make ends meet, but the lockdown has put a stop to their ability to do this.

“Life is hard not for days or weeks, life is hard for many years and sometimes from cradle to the grave for people in persistent poverty.  We had to stay and help as to close and walk away at the time of the greatest need is against all that The Cedarwood Trust represents,” reflects Wayne.

As of 6th July 2020, the Cedarwood Trust has achieved:

They are working closely with the Whitley Bay Round Table to develop and implement a network of Big Batch Cooking, which is a collective group of restaurants who prepare, cook and chill down the meals within a commercial setting.

​This group – which includes Chef Mark Spratt from Evans Bistro, Chef Adam Weir from Gateshead College, Chef Sangeeta Chopra from Namaste Taste of India, the Crab & Waltzer kitchen and freezer space and Chef Jen from Evans on The Wall – is all coordinated by a WhatsApp group which in itself is seeing former competitors forging close friendships.

Cedarwood is also inviting local people to share videos on their Facebook page so that people can let friends and family know how they are as well as keeping people updated with what they are doing as well as sharing things to do at home, and useful community information.