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Hamilton initiative 'Here to help u' ready to feed and support everyone

Immediate aid to the vulnerable, to build a stronger society after the crisis, is the focus of the Covid-19 relief effort coordinated by the Waikato's lead social and community service providers and supported by Momentum Waikato and other major local funders.

'Here to help u through Covid-19' is a new online community support tool and network centred around a website,, where any member of the public can quietly ask for help, and individuals, families, businesses and organisations can securely and easily target their offers of assistance.

It is the 'front counter' for a wide and coordinated support effort that aims to ensure anyone suffering hardship during the Covid-19 lockdown and beyond can easily request and get the help they need, regardless of their walk of life.

Wise Group and Community Waikato teamed up to coordinate and lead the effort, which involves a range of providers and funders, including (in no particular order) Volunteering Waikato, Kaivolution, The Salvation Army, Trust Waikato, Department of Internal Affairs, Hamilton City Council and Momentum Waikato, alongside an ever-widening cast of other community groups and organisations.

'Here to help u' has now been launched in Hamilton, with plans to expand across the Waikato as soon as possible.

The assistance the website offers includes food parcels, prepared meals, a collection service, general local advice and support, mental health care, and safe social connections.

Wise Group joint chief executive Jacqui Graham says they are committed to doing whatever it takes to meet the local community's need and to strengthen the wellbeing of people, whānau and communities.

"It is phenomenal that we've been able to get the 'Here to help u' website and network up and running so quickly," says Jacqui.

Community Waikato chief executive Holly Snape says many local people are having to ask for food and other social support for the first time.

"The Covid-19 crisis has simply widened the catchment and range of people who find themselves in need through no fault of their own. These are stories we see all the time, there are just suddenly many more of them. "I hope when we are through the current crisis that there is a wider recognition of this reality and it makes for a more compassionate and understanding society generally.

Holly says the 'Here to help u' project's first priority was to restore and reinforce the routine food supply for the vulnerable.

"With the lockdown and the particular susceptibility of the many older volunteers, existing services like food banks lost capacity just when the demand was spiking. So, the 'Here to help u' working group started off by 'food mapping', to identify and address the growing needs and gaps in provision."

Figures produced by the operations manager at the Wise Group Houchens Hub, Erana Severne, confirmed about 70 per cent of Hamilton's community food support was out of action or close to it at the end of March.

Usually more than 735 hot meals are produced per week, but at the onset of the lockdown that dropped to 100, while the number of food parcels prepared weekly dropped from 329 to 89.

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