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Moving into lockdown didn’t come at the best time for 89-year-old Vera Farrant, a Meals on Wheels recipient who lives in Hamilton. After only recently suffering a frightening health scare, Vera was due to move into a nearby retirement unit when the Government announced the lockdown, and all of a sudden she found herself gravely fearing for the fate of Meals on Wheels.
For people like Vera, who are living without loved ones nearby, who struggle to walk a short distance, who cannot lift a heavy pot or plate, a simple task like cooking a meal is unthinkable. And that became all the more terrifying when Covid-19 hit our shores.
Alone, isolated and afraid, Vera began to wonder when her next meal would be. Who the next person she'd see would be.
She quickly realised her days were about to get longer, the nights lonelier.
Until all of a sudden, word got to her that Meals on Wheels would be continuing. “It was such wonderful news. I felt so relieved, and for the community as well, because they play such an important role," Vera explains.
There are also people like Margaret who, living with the constant pain of arthritis and no family nearby, saying she simply couldn’t survive without the service. “I can’t afford meals any other way and I can’t cook for myself, so I’m completely dependent on the meals brought to me,” she explains.
But perhaps even more than the food, it’s the friendly chat from a volunteer that brings immense joy to her day. “I’m so touched when they visit. Nobody else is here so I really look forward to it.”
For volunteer drivers, this special moment of saying hello to someone – even now from a distance, is a key part of the job. “It’s a gift to be able to help and it's more than just delivering a meal; it’s checking up on people. I hope that the simple smile, friendly greeting and brief small-talk I offer [might] somehow help brighten up their day,” says Donna Sanchez, a Meals on Wheels volunteer.
During the recent lockdown, this kindness was undoubtedly how we as a country fought to come out the other side of the Covid-19 crisis, by being kind to ourselves and our community, helping those less fortunate where we could.
But now, as we continue to scale back in Alert Levels, many Kiwis will undoubtedly begin to rely less on others and start to forge ahead. Yet we musn't forget that for people like Margaret and Vera, their need remains as great as ever.