CovidComms Awards Ireland

Achill Covid Community Response Centre

Achill Covid Community Response Centre
Achill Tourism
Winner: Best community initiative
CovidComms Awards Ireland

Achill Island, which lies off County Mayo in the west coast of Ireland, has a high population of old and vulnerable residents. With the arrival of Covid-19, this demographic needed to be protected and supported, particularly as many have families who have emigrated for work.

Achill Tourism has a remit to promote the island as a tourist destination. But with a nationwide lockdown, this was no longer a priority. Instead, the organisation agreed to use its resources and staff to run the Achill Covid Community Response Centre.

Working with local doctors, local councillor Paul McNamara, community alert groups and the Garda, as well as clubs and volunteer service the Order of Malta, Achill Tourism created a plan and teams of volunteers that would service the 20 villages on the island.

The service, which was manned by Achill Tourism, operated seven days a week from 9am to 5pm. It coordinated volunteers to people who needed assistance. Partnering with all the local shops, the pharmacy and post office and the Social Inclusion Action Community Programme, Achill Tourism’s team of volunteers collected prescriptions and posted letters for the vulnerable, while delivering their shopping.

The local community bus service The Local Link made deliveries three days a week – Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Working with Colaiste Pobal Acla, the island’s secondary school, and National Schools, the Community Response Centre also co-ordinated the delivery of school lunches.

Islanders received calls to alert them to the service, but also to offer a friendly ear.

When the island suffered a water shortage following an unprecedented influx of staycationing visitors after lockdown eased, the Community Response Centre worked closely with the Ireland’s Civil Defence to get water delivered to vulnerable residents.

There are now plans to keep the service going, even when the pandemic has eased and restrictions are lifted. It will continue to provide support, both practical and emotional, for the vulnerable in the community.

Residents’ families living on the mainland or abroad said that, without the service, they would have been distressed and worried. One said: ‘With their staff’s selfless and obliging support, my parents were able to feel at peace that they could have access to food when it wasn’t safe for them to leave their house, especially with my dad’s underlying health condition. I am in awe.’

The judges said this was ‘a really strong community initiative, where Achill Tourism have given back to their small community and acted as a crutch to those who are more isolated and vulnerable during the pandemic’.