FROM dealing with a rat infestation to giving a lift to the doctors, it’s all in a day’s work for a community action group in Oving.
Community Watch started in the summer and is run by Liz Smith, 63.
The group has already had more than 40 calls since it began, one of which was from 86-year-old Margaret Strudwick, of St Andrew’s Close.
After her house was flooded with raw sewage in June, she was then plagued by a rat in November.
“I called Liz because I didn’t know what to do at that stage,” said Margaret.
Community Watch dealt with the problem, eventually contacting a pest control expert who removed the vermin, but described the house as suffering from a ‘major infestation’.
Liz said: “The problem for people like Margaret in our community, with the cut in social services, is where is somebody like her going to go?
“She’s got family but they don’t live here and they work. Where can Margaret go if she’s got a problem? This was part of the reason we set it up.”
She added: “Margaret was sat here with a rat eating its way through her clothes. We were worried about her.”
Community Watch has now been operating for a few months, and has been working hard to build up community ties and neighbourly goodwill.
The idea originally sprang from a meeting of Oving Parish Council.
“I was asked to take on Community Watch because they had this idea they wanted to look after the elderly in the neighbourhood,” said Liz.
“One of the first things we had to do was bailing out raw sewage,”
This is one of the more extreme situations with which the volunteers have dealt, but there are plenty of day-to-day jobs as well, such as giving people lifts to medical appointments and shopping trips.
“I took a 94-year-old to a shop in Chichester,” said Liz.
“He needed to speak to the pharmacist and the chairs were right at the end of the shop.
“It might as well have been Mount Everest for him. He just didn’t have the strength to get to that point.”
Most of the services, including lifts, are provided by Community Watch free of charge but some may require a small payment to cover costs. The group is, however, non-profit making.
Liz was particularly passionate about the idea because of her personal experiences.
Her partner Sjoerd Schuyleman suffered a serious brain injury in 2006, after falling from scaffolding at work, and for at least four years she cared for him while he gradually recovered.
It was during this time she said she realised the importance of community spirit.
“I felt very strongly about it when Sjoerd had his injury,” she said.
“I wouldn’t want to sit there and not be able to call on somebody for help.
“There’s a great reticence for somebody to admit they need help.”
The volunteers deal with a range of problems, and Liz is keen to emphasise that each call to Community Watch is dealt with in a confidential manner.
She has 14 volunteers, and when she receives a call she assigns someone to deal with the problem.
“The main aim is to make people aware of their neighbours,” she said. “Do you know their name?”
The volunteers can be contacted on 07561 164213, or email firstname.lastname@example.org