Today, Invisible Cities Founder, Zakia, tells us about what it has been like to support guides, trainees and volunteers during the COVID-19 outbreak, what it entails and how we could not do this without your support.
When we heard that the UK was going to be in lock down, following several European countries, our first thought was all the people we work with in our Invisible Cities. Actually, if we think about what happened before that, we had been suffering from the effects of Corona virus for several weeks already. Having so many groups of guests coming from all over the world meant that we were seeing lots of cancellations already. But I guess that only affected our income. As the situation worsened, the health of everyone was a concern.
A lot of our guides, trainees or volunteers have had prior health issues, or are in the at risk age bracket, which makes them more vulnerable to the virus. Thankfully, we knew that all of them but one were at least in temporary accommodation. And for Daniel in Glasgow, he was put in a hotel by Glasgow City council shortly after lock down was announced. That means they can isolate and stay safe. Which is obviously not the case of all homeless people. You can actually read what our Edinburgh Guide Paul thinks about isolation and homelessness here.
The first week of isolation, we put a plan in place to support everyone with weekly deliveries in Edinburgh, constant communication with Daniel in Glasgow, and support with energy bills in Manchester. In York, all guides are in regular contact with The Good Organisation CIC, our partner there, so we will also know what they may need.
In Edinburgh, by partnering with a local Edinburgh bakery, we are able to deliver weekly to 10 "households" which includes a total of 16 people (including room mates, children and 2 pets). Each Saturday, they receive yummy cakes and bread from Il Panino as well as groceries and house items. This always includes fresh fruit and veg, and we try to vary what else we put in there: meat, eggs, milk but also sweets, chocolate, soft drinks, herbs and stock. I really believe that everyone should have the right to eat nutritious and healthy food and it is not because people are in temporary accommodation or that it is lock down that we should lower the quality of what we send. Of course, we adapt what is sent as per what appliances they may have access to.
In Glasgow, Daniel is currently in a hotel so cooking is not possible. Instead, we provide groceries that are easily kept in the room and eaten and this week we even got him a toaster, cheese on toast being his favourite! After this is all over, he can take the toaster to his new flat.
In Manchester, we support with energy bills, or with gardening seeds for Laura as this was something she wanted to try during isolation.
Next week, you will hear from Millie, our Guide Support Officer in Manchester about what she does to keep everyone safe, engaged and to check on everyone's mental health, a growing concern as lock-down continues.
Of course, none of this could have been possible without the support of everyone who donated to our Just Giving Page. Donations are being used weekly to cover costs of groceries, deliveries, and items everyone is desperate for. Homelessness charity CRISIS also supported our efforts to look after everyone and we are so thankful for that.
As we have do not know when we might go back to normal again, we continue needing your support and so we ask everyone to donate if they can and to spread the word on social media, but also to friends, families and colleagues.
Over the last few weeks, the support and encouragement we have received has been overwhelming at times if I am being honest. I know it is the result of the lasting impressions all our guides have left on travellers, corporates, partners and colleagues in the Tourism sector. The future is indeed uncertain and my biggest worry right now is what will happen in the coming months. Travelling and Tourism have been hit badly and if we were able to resume tours tomorrow, could we do them like before? Or would social distancing prevent us from doing so? I don't have the answers to any of these questions. In the meantime, we take one day at a time and try to keep motivating, innovating and be grateful for the support, cheering up, donations and lovely words we receive. It means the world to me and to everyone at Invisible Cities. Together we can definitely get through this.
So a million times thank you!
Much love and stay safe,