Kathleen Sheridan has been working with the Irish community in Lewisham for 20 years and feels it’s her duty to offer them care and support, originally being from Limerick, Ireland herself.
Supporting the Irish community is very close to her heart, and so after the announcement of more stringent Covid measures; it was only natural she would come up with ways to help those feeling isolated through her work with Lewisham Irish Community Centre.
The Covid-19 appeal aims to meet as many needs of the community as possible during lockdown, with several services on offer after undergoing a complete revamp during the first wave of Covid.
Lewisham Irish has drastically changed the way they operate and what they provide and hope to be able to continue this into the near future.
The centre was already helping the community by running a weekly youth club (8-14-year-olds), playgroup, older adults programme including Zumba gold, lunch clubs, social events , yoga, walking football. Also, they provide hall space for community activities and events.
The Covid-appeal was initially launched in March this year during the first lockdown, however recently more services have been added to the scheme to make it more sustainable and effective.
Hot, healthy meals are distributed with the help of Catford fridge’s resources and delivered by cyclists from Wheels to Wellbeing.
They have also launched a befriending telephone service, hosted by Sheridan, the centre manager.
As well as these services, the centre also provides care packages to the older members of the Irish community, alongside volunteering opportunities, fundraising and remote advice services – offering support on housing benefit and universal credit claims.
Sheridan spoke of the fact that regular centre users are concerned about how they will cope over the next few weeks of lockdown.
“We’re introducing some new services and changing some of our existing services to support as best we can, delivering the best of Irish care in the community at a really challenging time.”
The centre in itself is certainly well equipped to carefully plan and carry out the appeal demands, boasting a 150-capacity hall – usually used for rehearsals and youth clubs. At the moment, it is being utilized in the best way possible so that centre workers can work quickly with social distancing.
Sheridan was also keen to acknowledge the community partners involved in making the appeal possible. These include Lewisham Council, the Irish Government and the Southwark Irish pensioners who have co-ordinated volunteers to help out the organisation during the crisis.
Sheridan commented: “If we can be a friendly voice at the least, making sure that those in need have the right support and services they need, then we’ll have succeeded.”
“We have seen an increase as well in first time claimers of benefits, and so we need to help people to know their rights and exercise them.”
The Covid-19 appeal is acquiring more and more clients as the weeks go on, and they face an unprecedented challenge to meet supply and demand.
The centre has called out for help so they can continue offering the support they do and are asking people to consider donating to the service – allowing them to make a real difference.
If you are in need of support or know of anyone who is during this time, contact Kathleen Sheridan on 07956509033, or the mainline for The Lewisham Irish Community Centre on 02086956264.