A sense of community: Smaller centres show big hearts during COVID

Canowindra taxi driver Ian Guihot has taken to delivering coffee and groceries to some of the elderly in Canowindra, helping to keep spirits high during lockdown. Photo: Robyn Wilkinson, Federation Fotos
Canowindra taxi driver Ian Guihot has taken to delivering coffee and groceries to some of the elderly in Canowindra, helping to keep spirits high during lockdown. Photo: Robyn Wilkinson, Federation Fotos

Resilience.

It's defined as the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly.

When the Oxford English Dictionary sits down to chose a word of the year for 2021 resilience would have to be high on its list of candidates.

It has certainly been a popular choice to describe regional Australia's smaller communities as they continue to adapt to life during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Resilience and of course, a sense of community.

In Canowindra, located in the NSW central west just 25 minutes from Cowra and 45 minutes from Orange its residents are increasingly calling on each other to keep spirits high.

With a population of just over 2250, where home delivery of food and essentials is rare, assistance is coming via the town's lone taxi driver Ian Guihot who has taken to delivering coffee and groceries to friends and elderly.

"People ring, especially the older residents, if they've run out of something and I just go get it for them and they fix me up (with payment) when I get it to them," Mr Guihot said.

To avoid contact Mr Guihot knocks at the front door and is on his way.

Medical experts will tell you Mr Guihot is providing much more than a delivery service.

Philip Worrad, Western NSW Local Health District's rural mental health coordinator for the Parkes and Lachlan Shires says it is important people find ways to care for themselves.

He told ACM generosity reduces stress and enhances self-worth.

Mr Worrad suggests we should do just what Mr Guihot is doing.

"Drop things around to your neighbour without breaking social distancing, or make sure you are always checking in with your friends - sometimes you won't know what's bubbling under the service unless you ask," he said.

Canowindra residents are now into the fourth week of lockdown.

By comparison, just down the road residents of Cowra Shire came out of lockdown last weekend.

Canowindra is located in Cabonne Shire where, in the words of mayor Kevin Beatty "businesses and the people are doing it tough".

Covering an area of 6000 square kilometres Cabonne Shire is made up Canowindra, Cargo, Cudal, Cumnock, Eugowra, Manildra, Molong and Yeoval. Molong is the largest of the centres with a population of just over 2500.

"The Cabonne community is a very strong minded community, they all work together and help each other," Cr Beatty said.

"Part of the spirit of Cabonne is that when things get tough the people rally together and work through it.

"I think in the smaller places like Cudal, Cummnock, Manildra and Yeoval and even down to the rural locations like Nashdale and Mullion Creek, they're really close communities," Cr Beatty said.

Despite freedom looking so close but still a month Mr Guihot says those he has contact with are "coping pretty well" and "doing the right thing".

"Ninety percent are doing the right thing, they're getting sick of it but up until now they've done really well, they'll keep going until we open up.

"Most people are looking after their neighbours," he added.

If you're not in a position where you can call on others for help Mr Worrad suggests we all practice a bit of self-care.

Not everyone loves exercise, but he says it's great for our mental health. If your dog refuses yet another walk, try something different.

He says we should also not forget we have a beautiful region in which to walk and run too - with the canola blooming it is positively stunning outside at the moment.

David and Greg Wiltshire are in isolation after the Cudal teenager tested positive to COVID on September 2. Photo: SUPPLIED

David and Greg Wiltshire are in isolation after the Cudal teenager tested positive to COVID on September 2. Photo: SUPPLIED

To the south of the state Cootamundra MP Steph Cooke believes the fact "everyone knows everyone" is a strength.

"More often than not, the people you can call on for help live just down the road," Ms Cooke said.

Known as the 'member for small communities' Ms Cooke's electorate encompasses nearly 13,500 square kilometres of the state and includes the shires of Bland, Narrandera, Coolamon, Temora, Junee, Weddin, Cowra, Hilltops and Cootamundra-Gundagai.

"Our closeness in both friendships and proximity enhances our ability to check in with people and have those casual conversations which unbeknownst to us, release burdens some may be carrying," Ms Cooke said.

"It could be with someone in your family, a friend or even the barista at your local coffee shop that you greet with a smile every morning while waiting for your coffee.

"These connections, big or small mean a lot to us.

"Our small communities have a strong sense for looking out for those who are elderly, frail and vulnerable to protect them from COVID-19.

"Through these compassionate traits, our small towns and villages band together when facing the unknown and are more prepared to make personal and social sacrifices to make sure everyone is safe.

"The selflessness among our communities is a coping mechanism within itself.

"We identify those small things we love and how we can play our part to enjoy them once again by keeping everyone safe."

In another small Cabonne Shire town, Cudal, 25 minutes from Canowindra, a family has praised the community for its support after a family member tested positive to the virus.

David Wiltshire, 19, received a text saying he had tested positive for the virus on September 2, marking the first COVID-19 case for the town.

His dad Greg Wiltshire, who lives in the same house along with wife Liz, said the community has been amazing.

"At first there was nervousness and we were more worried about other people," he said.

"David's employed by a local tradie and because all the boys now have 14 days in isolation as close contacts to him, they've been having Zoom welfare meetings.

"I also run a small lawnmowing business where my son helps me and my father helps so they've been in contact with each other. It has a pretty big impact on a small community pretty quick."

How is your smaller community coping? Share your stories with us.

This story A sense of community: Smaller centres show big hearts during COVID first appeared on Canowindra News.