Back in January a crowdfunder was started across Bristol, raising money to support people effected by Covid-19 in paying their fuel bills.
A total of £19,740 was raised and split equally between five community centres to cover the whole of the Bristol area. Baggator, an organisation helping local people have a voice, was nominated to distribute funds across East and Central Bristol and helped 31 families directly. Unlike government means tested programs, the aim of the crowdfunder was to keep it simple, providing money directly and quickly to where it’s needed most.
Stuart Phelps of Baggator Nexus said he was ‘Really grateful to the people who put their hands in their pockets.’ And is already looking ahead to ‘What can we do next to help the community where it matters and it’s needed most?’.
Nicola was one of those fortunate enough to receive funding through the scheme. Renting a ground floor flat just off of Stapleton road she was furloughed in the first lockdown from her role at Re:work, a charity in Knowle West supporting young people. The charity works with young offenders, people excluded or likely to be excluded from school, and young adults who find themselves unemployed, but has been struggling for funding in recent years, and had a devastating fire to the shop last year.
Nicola, like many others were at work and away from home for much of the day, but with the government message to stay at home, and a wage reduction to 80%, she was finding it hard to stay warm. ‘I’ve really struggled with heating this year; I have a damp flat where the windows need resealing. I have only been heating one room to save money and stay under the quilt when I can. I have a pre-payment metre and have at times ended up overdrawn. I’ve had to ask for help and it makes me quite angry that this has to happen as I should be able to pay for my own bills. You suddenly realise in an extraordinary situation such as this how little you have.’
She was nominated for support by her boss at Re:work Vicky Beckwith who along with her colleagues have been fantastic at keeping in touch with Nicola. After filling out the necessary paperwork the money only took one day to come through directly to her bank account, she received £50, the highest rate for an individual.
Nicola is one of many itching to go back to work, ‘I never realised how important my work and my colleagues are to my mental health and general wellbeing. I hope they don’t keep me furloughed till September as a huge thing for me during the last year has been loneliness. I can’t bear the thought of being off for that length of time.’ She’s kept herself busy through the lockdowns making 1000s of masks, using her sewing skills to keep helping others. But after a fire at the charity shop and the need for funding and refurbishment for the charity premises, whether or not she’s able to return to work this spring is still uncertain.