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Published: 01 June 2020

Supporting neighbours in need

Dr Sumeetra Ramakrishnana, Senior Teaching Fellow, has been supporting her neighbours in need.

Sumeetra Ramakrishnana

The act of giving one’s time freely to help others has long been regarded by some of history’s most notable individuals as a crucial component of living a fulfilled life. Dr Sumeetra Ramakrishnana has been looking after her community during the Covid-19 pandemic. As the country was asked to stay home to save lives, Sumeetra and six fellow volunteers reached out to vulnerable residents in their home village of Normandy, offering to support any neighbour in need.

As a member of Normandy’s volunteering network, Sumeetra is no stranger to giving up her time for others. She has previously helped to organise anything from litter picks and bonfire nights to community service rehabilitation programmes. Today, against the backdrop of a country in lockdown, her efforts are focused on helping families to access food banks, signposting to support services, shopping for vulnerable groups and phoning isolated residents. Sumeetra explains:

“When someone needs help, we match them up with the closest-living volunteer. I tend to do a lot of community shops as well as giving advice on how to access support services. I also phone my elderly neighbour for a good chat – we talk about all sorts of things.”

Sumeetra has found that older generations can sometimes feel too proud to ask for help, or they are concerned about troubling people for essentials like milk or bread: “When you offer these neighbours a little help, they are often very grateful. Many will take you up on it. It’s particularly nice when they become comfortable asking for help. I see that as a gesture of appreciation.”

With a busy career, two children, school closures and a working husband, how does Sumeetra find the time to do the extra supermarket runs? “My remote teaching is obviously timetabled, but other parts of my schedule are more flexible. This, as well as working from home, has given me the scope to juggle my work and family responsibilities with volunteering. Having a flexible employer helps a lot.”

As a seasoned grocery shopper with an extra-long list, does Sumeetra have any tips for supermarket runs during lockdown? “The queues are often shortest at around 3pm on a Monday”, she shares with a wink.

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