During the current Keep Well campaign, we focus on people who have been helping their neighbours during the pandemic. This week, we focus on Sligo-based postal worker Bernie Flynn, who provides more than a simple postal service during her deliveries.
Postal Worker Goes The Extra Mile During Covid
On a daily basis, she calls to people along her route, in particular the elderly or those living alone, to deliver messages and run errands for those who have become more isolated during the pandemic.
"Lockdown in my job has changed a lot for the simple reason that there's a lot of people at home now. Everybody's at home, so you've got to know your 'post' better now than you ever did."
The postal service has probably been as busy as it's ever been, thanks to all of the extra online shopping we've been doing. But while this has meant very early starts - she sets the alarm for 4:15am, it hasn't stopped Bernie from spending more time with people on her route. Sometimes it involves picking up the groceries, or picking up a prescription at the chemist, but as often as not, it's just about having a conversation or catching up on the local news.
"In some cases you could be the only person they see for the week, two weeks, three weeks. You make time, I really enjoy my job, and it's nice to put a smile on someone's face," she says.
As Bernie usually delivers much of her post early in the morning, before the pandemic arrived, there were people she wouldn't normally have met on her route, having delivered their mail while they slept. But when lockdown began, she started to get to know many more people personally. One of these is Yvonne Slowey, and by now, she and Bernie have become firm friends.
Bernie says that
"when lockdown started, I knocked on every door and I left my telephone number with them, if they needed anything. And Yvonne came back to me automatically, she wanted someone to call to see her. She's such a nice person, and you love going back to her, and she really appreciates the smallest little things, send her a text, see is she ok, things like that."
"Bernie makes my day, because so many things I forget. And I know if send a text to Bernie, that she'll have them the following day for me, and it's no big deal. I couldn't do without her, she's fantastic."
These heart-warming experiences are happening up and down the country, and Bernie underlines that she is only doing what many others have done for years.
"The post people are actually doing today what the postmen and women all over the country have been doing - they've been calling in on old people all the time, getting their groceries, picking up bits and pieces for them, and, you know, Covid has just brought it to light."
Not only are our postal workers providing a valuable social service during lockdown, but they can also be the eyes and ears of the community. Especially during lockdown, where there are fewer cars on the roads, they keep a close eye on the communities they serve, particularly when they see something unusual during their rounds.
"I start work very early in the morning. So on my way into work I'd be very observant. So if I see a light on in a house that shouldn't be on, or see a strange car on the road, I will automatically notify the Garda Síochána."
As a final word, Bernie says that, as long as proper precautions are taken and the risk of breaking Covid rules is minimised, we should all keep an eye on our neighbours, particularly the elderly.
"As a community, we should be calling on our neighbours. Check to see if people are ok, even if it's only to say 'Hello!' They're very aware of the dangers of Covid, so they automatically will stand back. All you've to do is knock on their door, and move back from it, and just talk to them. I think all they want is a friendly face."
In the coming weeks, follow the Sligo County Council social media feeds for more samples of this wonderful voluntary work which is happening on our doorstep here in Sligo. One video per week will be posted across these channels each week, highlighting the wonderful Meitheal spirit which continues to be evident in many ways in Sligo as we face the challenges of living with Covid-19.
The Keep Well initiative is being delivered by Sligo County Council through the Healthy Sligo, Keep Well and Community Resilience Fund. Please visit our website www.sligococo.ie/keepwell for resources and information, as well as staying up to date on all of the new video releases.