March has been a month like no other!

When I think back to things that happened a few weeks ago it feels like so much longer. Communication and interaction have changed in ways that will never go back.

And one thing that has struck me is the way people have come forward, stepped up to help their neighbours even though they may feel scared and frightened themselves, it has been a beautiful thing.

I live in Slough, a diverse town in so many ways. As things started to look like they were getting harder, I reached out to Sue at the Foodbank to see what I could do to help. She connected me with Nick and from there we set up a group that runs on the Mutual Aid model. Very much people led, not an organisation as such, just people working together, everyone playing their part. In just two weeks we had 150 volunteers signed up, we split the town into 10 local areas and each area has a person connecting and co-ordinating and making sure we remain focused on neighbours helping their local neighbours., safely but without lots of bureaucracy. As I saw the names come in of the people volunteering, it spoke for itself. All ages, all backgrounds, all ethnicities. I am an optimist, I believe there are more good people in the world than bad and times like these really show that.

I have felt for a long time that more people would like to get involved in community organising, in helping others, they just don’t always know how or where to go or maybe they don’t have the confidence to start something.

This way of working has bypassed all of that, has made everyone feel they have a role to play. And we can’t even meet the people we are working with or the people we are helping but somehow it is working, things are getting done and it continues to inspire and motivate me to do what I can to help in these challenging times.

I think this situation we find ourselves in has an opportunity to bring our country together, to bring people out of their isolated lives and connect better with others in new and exciting ways.

Every cloud does surely have a silver lining….

Julie Siddiqi is the co-founder of the interfaith group Nisa-Nashim.