We were recently approached by Aled Hanson, a 20 year old student at the University of Birmingham. This is during the Coronavirus crisis. In his own words, this is what he was looking to do:
“I am a 20 year old student at the University of Birmingham. In the past few days, I have returned home to Northop, a village near Mold in Flintshire.
There are a large amount of elderly and vulnerable people in my village who I am desperate to help through this crisis. Though the village has put measures in place to ensure the elderly and vulnerable have adequate food and toiletries, it is also true that if they are expected to self-isolate for a long period of time – this isolation and boredom could significantly affect mental health.
In my experience, in the darkest times in life reading can find the escape that we desire. That’s why I have come up with the idea of ‘Cuppa and a Book Club’ – a remote Book Club that involves the delivery of free books to the elderly and vulnerable in the village in order to give them something to occupy their minds. The idea would be that Book club discussions could take place virtually online and also if that person does not have access to the internet – a booklet of book club questions for each chapter would be provided alongside the book. The plan would be to deliver packages through the doors of the elderly and vulnerable – and inside would be the Book for that week, a different flavoured tea bag of the week and some nice treats like biscuits. Hence the name ‘cuppa and a Book Club’. I hope that a package of this kind could light up the day of people who we should be trying incredibly hard to look after right now.”
We asked Aled a number of questions about his plans, and he gave us additional information as follows:
1) The specific village is Northop – my postcode is CH7 6WD. Population is 3,049 and the village has a large elderly population. However, if the scheme is successful I would be interested in rolling it out to nearby villages such as Sychdyn, Northop Hall and Flint Mountain.
2) In terms of checks to gauge interest, there is a community response facebook page with hundreds of members on. I made a post with my prototype designs and had an influx of positive responses suggesting this could really help and that many people knew neighbours who would benefit from this scheme. I also completed a paper round in the village for 5 years. I therefore have got to know the village and its population quite well. I know from my own experience on this paper round dozens of elderly residents who live alone and do not have relatives who live close by. Many of these residents do not have internet access and rely on three things to keep them occupied during isolation – their garden, the TV and their daily newspaper. I know there are so many people in the village in this situation and these are the specific group that this scheme is designed for. And of course then, for those who do have access to the internet and can order the books themselves can still take part in the book club, they just will not receive the book free of charge.
3) There is a proportion of the elderly population – who have access to the internet, are not financially affected by the virus and can simply order books themselves. It is important to emphasise that this is not the proportion of the elderly population who the free part of this book club is for. Like I said, I know the village and its residents quite well from working in the village shop and doing a paper round for 5 years, therefore I know broadly who I should be targeting. I will deliver leaflets to all elderly residents in the village particularly those I know fit into the category of needing this scheme and also liaise with other community activists to find out who fits in the vulnerable categories. On these leaflets, the residents will be given an email address and phone number to sign up to the scheme by providing their name and address. On this email/phone call they will be instructed to make clear whether they will take part and order the book themselves – or if they need the support of the scheme to provide the book to them. They will also be asked to make clear whether they need to access the book in an accessible format and this format will of course be provided.
4) In terms of working out what books to use – the scheme will work in volumes. So Volume 1 : Eleanor Oliphant would be the first to delivered. I chose this for two reasons: 1) it is an accessible read that is book club friendly – with the publisher creating a number of resources to aid book club discussion. 2) It is about an extremely pertinent topic – preserving mental health. A relatable and engaging story about a character struggling with mental health but coming out of it positively I think could be extremely important right now.
5) In regards to the Aura servies, they are providing an e-library whilst libraries are shut in Wales. Again, this may be useful to the ‘tech savvy’ – but this scheme is to specifically target the elderly population who do not have access to the internet. I know many elderly in the village who can only use the internet when the visit the computers at the library.
7) In terms of proving that the books have been delivered, I know that Amazon will take a picture of a parcel being delivered to prove it has taken place so this is potentially an option. Also, the testimony of those who have used the scheme and received their book could be used to prove delivery has taken place.
Our trustees made a quick decision to assist and donated £200 to Aled to get his scheme off the ground. Although we would like to be faster at getting the money out to charities, our bank still only gives us access to cheques and not bank transfers (arrghh). Aled has had to work out what do with a cheque in order to receive the funds! We have an application in to move banks but it is taking forever (we are moving from CAF who now charge monthly fees to Triodos Bank).
I hope that by publishing the information above, other charities and organisations can see the level of research and prep Aled had undertaken in order to get funding. I know it can be hard to sit down and write applications (we’ve been there), but similarly it is hard as charity trustee to make a donation to something where we don’t have all the facts. The more detail, the better.
Photos and updates to follow…