Coronavirus: Friends in Need Auckland initiative to help the elderly, vulnerable gets nationwide support

An Auckland-based community initiative to help the elderly and vulnerable during lockdown has been met by a wave of supportive New Zealanders willing to do their bit.

Sisters and co-founders Rachel Paris and Bridget Snelling launched Friends in Need following a discussion about how the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown could impact New Zealand's most vulnerable, such as exacerbating feelings of isolation, loneliness and anxiety. 

"About a week ago my sister and I were talking about the elderly people in our community and how they'd be feeling increasingly vulnerable with the restrictions, which at that time were at Level 2," Snelling told The AM Show on Tuesday.

"Last Saturday night we quickly put together a website and a community Facebook page and sent it out to our social networks to say, 'hey let's all mobilise the community', to help those around us who may not have support at this time."

In just over a week, Snelling says Friends in Need has amassed 450 registered volunteers, with more than 1000 Kiwis showing interest in the community Facebook group.

"Our dad is a community GP here in Auckland and he works a lot with the elderly and in rest homes," Paris told Newshub.

"He was explaining to us how they've had to close to visitors... we were heartbroken for all those people."

How the initiative works

Anyone feeling lonely, isolated or without support due to the COVID-19 crisis can sign up to the Friends In Need service. Applicants will then be matched with a volunteer in their neighbourhood. Volunteer responsibilities include a daily call to check in on their partner's wellbeing as well as picking up essential supplies on their behalf.

The initiative is committed to following the Ministry of Health's official guidelines and Government advice, the sisters said in a statement. If volunteers do offer to provide support beyond check-in phone-calls, they are required to practice social distancing by maintaining a two-metre gap at all times. Volunteers may only travel to pick up and drop off essential supplies.

"We're all in this together and Friends in Need gives us all a way to help our community feel comforted and supported," Snelling said in a statement

"We want them to know there are people out who care and it's as easy as a phone call a day, so please reach out."

The sisters are considering expanding the initiative outside of Auckland based on the overwhelming support they have received from around the country.

Those who would like to receive help can: 

  • register online at friendsinneed-auckland.com
  • text Inneed to 3255 followed by their name, email address (if the applicant has one) and suburb
  • call 021 064 7625.

Those who wish to volunteer to help can register online at friendsinneed-auckland.com.