A series of technology companies have joined forces in launching a community cohesion project, CoronaFriend, in a bid to keep neighbours connected during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Orla Shields, co-founder of proptech business, Kamma, and social entrepreneur, Phil Hewinson, were inspired by the #ViralKindness postcard campaign kickstarted by Cornwall copywriter Becky Wass. 

#ViralKindness postcard paves the way for CoronaFriend project to support self-isolating neighbours
Photo: Becky Wass. Caption: Becky Wass and husband John Green devised a plan to unite neighbours in quarantine.

Ms Wass designed a printable template that allows people to exchange contact details and offer their support to self-isolating neighbours, whether they require their shopping to be delivered, their mail to be posted, or simply a “friendly phone call”. 

The initiative encourages users to fill in the postcard and distribute it through letterboxes to ensure that channels of communication remain open between residents all the while social distancing measures are upheld. 

#ViralKindness postcard paves the way for CoronaFriend project to support self-isolating neighbours
Photo: Becky Wass “Wash your hands, print this, fill it out and pop it in your neighbour’s letterbox” says John Green in Twitter post promoting #ViralKindness

“If just one person feels less lonely or isolated when faced with this pandemic, then I’ll feel better about it,” Ms Wass wrote in an online post that has received over 9,000 Facebook shares. 

As the venture continued to gain traction on social media, it caught the attention of international communities. “I’ve even had a friend request from someone in Australia who will be sharing the cards in the Perth area,” exclaimed Ms Wass in an interview with Cornwall Live. 

Owing to the collaboration of several project partners, including Great Britain’s national mapping agency, Ordnance Survey, CoronaFriend builds upon the foundations laid by Ms Wass. The website allows individuals to enter their postcode and navigate their way through a map of their local area. 

Participants are encouraged to print out a leaflet similar in function to that of Ms Wass’ postcard, and distribute it within their residential district.

#ViralKindness postcard paves the way for CoronaFriend project to support self-isolating neighbours
Photo: Coronafriend. Community members can lend support to each other through an innovative postcard system

Users are then required to log their activity on the interactive map, which displays data for each street in the UK, colour-coded in relation to its status as either fully covered, partially covered, or in need of assistance. 

The sophisticated geospatial imaging tool charts the zones that have been attended to by local volunteers through the CoronaFriend leaflet service, while simultaneously flagging the regions that are lacking in relief efforts. This enables community members to take ownership of their home territory and coordinate their aid response accordingly.

#ViralKindness postcard paves the way for CoronaFriend project to support self-isolating neighbours
Photo: Coronafriend. Participants are urged to update the database to create a record of localities in need

“In the face of the appalling human cost of the COVID-19 virus, the outpouring of community support has been so inspiring, and we wanted to do what we could to help,” stated Shields. 

The free service provided by CoronaFriend is a highly accessible and user-friendly scheme which ensures communication networks are fostered and sustained between vulnerable groups and their neighbours, with the elderly and the immobile at particular risk during the lockdown. 

“I am so proud of my team for working tirelessly to use our expertise to bring structure to the massive volunteering effort,” Shields affirmed.

Both the #ViralKindness movement and the CoronaFriend organisation are testament to the indispensability of grassroots strategies in a national health crisis, which rely on cooperation between proactive individuals to guarantee sufficient assistance for at-risk sectors of the population.
To get involved in the CoronaFriend project visit: www.coronafriend.com

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Zayna is a student of Comparative Literature at UCL and an avid reader who hopes to cast light upon the ripple effect of small acts of kindness that lead to great waves of change.

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