1 Oct 2020
As a mum, freelancer and entrepreneur Sarah Scullion leads a busy life. Launching a travel startup specialising in event tourism was her next step.
“I had 2020 pretty well planned out. I was in the middle of Invest NI’s 6-month pre-accelerator programme ‘Propel’ when COVID-19 put an unexpected bump in the road and my event tourism startup came to a standstill after many years of hard work.
I continued the programme which moved online through lockdown but changed the focus of my attention from event tourism to community support. I wanted to put my skills and resources to good use.
The concept for Community Calling originated from my own personal circumstances. After being in self-isolation for 5 days due to my 1-year-old daughter displaying symptoms, I came up with an idea to help people in isolation during COVID-19 – to connect people with available support.
It was sparked after my sister-in-law mentioned that she wanted to start delivering things to the elderly. I thought it was such a lovely gesture but due to how sick my daughter was at the time, I was concerned about the transmission of infection to the elderly and people at higher risk. I worried about what my mum would do as a woman in her 60s if she had to self-isolate alone.
I thought, perhaps, I could set up a system that would solve this problem whilst, at the same time, allow me, as someone in isolation, to play a part in helping the community as well.
I bought a web domain (covid19community.org) and in just one day Community Calling was set up. A platform connecting people who were offering support (individuals, groups and organisations) with those who needed it most throughout Northern Ireland. It was clear from the outset that there were many people in need of urgent support. Thankfully, I could also see that there were, even more, offers of support coming through our system so we were in a good place to start matching the requests to available support.
Over the past 6 months, Community Calling has been collaborating with food banks, community organisations and councils with the aim of eliminating duplication of valuable resources between groups and to ensure support is delivered efficiently to individuals in need.
As Community Calling grew, we sought funding from the Community Foundation who were quick and efficient in ensuring funds reached communities in need. £8,250 of funding helped us towards funding our tech development of a new collaborative community network platform, safeguarding training for 60 volunteers and a designated safeguarding officer.
We formed our organisation in response to an emergency but we have discovered that for many, these needs do not disappear as restrictions are lifted – in some cases they may change and in others they may worsen if not met with suitable support. We are currently looking to expand this service to meet both the existing and changing needs of our communities.
Moving into the second phase of support we are seeking individuals with various skills from mindfulness to employability skills to offer their services supporting individuals and communities to get back into work and supporting the longer-term effects of COVID-19, especially on mental health.”
Community Calling partners with digital background checking platform, SureCert for digital ID verification and personal reference checks of volunteers. SureCert, in collaboration with Community Calling, received an award for Innovation for their combined response to COVID-19 at the Catalyst Invent 2020 Awards last week – Congratulations!
The New Needs Fund set up by the Community Foundation was the second COVID response fund supporting communities to respond better, addressing new needs appearing as a result of the Coronavirus and where restrictions mean finding new ways of meeting existing needs. To date the Foundations Covid respose funds have awarded over £5 million to 800 communities, encouraging organisations and communities to #build back better, helping to ensure organisations can thrive and continue to provide longer-term support to communities.
Please note our Covid funds are not closed. You can view our open funds here.