Caremongering Kamloops relaunched its Neighbour-to-Neighbour (N2N) program in November as the second wave of COVID-19 descended on the city. The volunteer-run initiative ensures vulnerable community members have access to food and other necessities.
Kamloopsians can rest easy knowing that they do not have to go out and risk their health and, quite literally, their lives in some cases if they do not feel comfortable or confident in doing so. N2N volunteers have community member’s backs.
N2N program coordinator Inga Thomson Hilton explained that Caremongering Kamloops is part of a larger grassroots movement that emerged at the start of the pandemic. Other caremongering networks have popped up from coast to coast, and community members elsewhere have started their own initiatives like N2N. In contrast to fearmongering, caremongering, in Hilton’s words, “is a positive take on our current collective experience.”
Hilton says that Caremongering Kamloops is hoping to reach community members who do not have access to the internet and do not have support systems of their own this winter. She hopes to extend a helping hand and offer moral support to individuals that haven’t yet come across the N2N program in the last nine months.
Hilton says that back in March, “there were thousands of people joining the [Caremongering Kamloops] Facebook group after it was created.” Because people were both offering and requesting help in an unorganized manner, Hilton says the Facebook page was not working out. “Posts were getting buried all over the place. So, Gisela Ruckert and I, who are long-time community activists, said to each other, ‘we think we need a better structure here.’ We conceived of the idea of the N2N program, and within a week, we had [the website] up and running.”
Through Caremongering Kamloops’ website kamloopscares.ca, community members can request help or request to help out.
At the start of the pandemic, Hilton said, “[N2N] had divided the city up into 17 neighbourhoods, and had [assigned] 42 neighbourhood captains.” What ended up happening, as Hilton had expected because of her experience with community outreach during the wildfires in 2017, “[the N2N program] received way more requests to help out than requests for actual help.”
Because of this, Hilton says they consolidated this fall.
“We set up just five neighbourhoods, and now instead of 42 captains, there are 10. Two for each of the five neighbourhoods. Captains manage the volunteers and requests in their area,” Hilton said.
Hilton commented that it seems like most people have developed a support system of their own since March.
“If [people] are isolating, like myself, they’ve figured out how to order groceries online and have reached out to family and friends who have extended a helping hand,” she said. “We hope to reach people who do not have access to the internet and cannot reach us through our website as well as people who are very limited in how they can reach out. You know, people who do not have a support system.”
Individuals who do not have access to the internet can call 778-696-2039 for assistance.
Hilton added that another offering that will continue through the N2N program this winter is their meal delivery service in partnership with the Mt. Paul Community Food Centre. Since March, “many hundreds of meals have been delivered all over the city.” Anybody who could use a free, made-from-scratch meal can register through the website, kamloopscares.ca on top of any other requests for help.
Hilton says the program has been extremely successful, and the Caremongering Kamloops Facebook group has grown to an impressive 4.3K members.
She added in closing that “[she has] been a resident of Kamloops for a long time and just adores the way people step up in times of need.”