A SOMERSET woman who formed a 'volunteer army' to help local people experiencing isolation during the pandemic is continuing her mission to bring her community together. 

Last year, Karen Aniola of High Littleton appealed for volunteers on social media to help her care for people living alone in her community. 

More than 40 people signed up, and the group delivered leaflets to each of the 700 houses in their village, compiling a database of people who might need support. 

They secured food and prescriptions for people who needed it throughout several lockdowns and provided vulnerable people with reassurance. 

Karen, a 50-year-old mum of two, said: "I’ve lived in my village for more than twenty years but it was the pandemic that really inspired me to get involved.

"I hated the thought of anyone living alone suffering and there are lots of elderly people in our area so I sent out a message to our local Facebook group and it all went from there." 

Somerset County Gazette:

Former executive assistant Karen received an award from her local rotary club for her efforts during the pandemic. 

She is not stopping there and is now working in partnership with the local recreational ground trust and parish council to create a central space for people in her community to use. 

They are aiming to renovate a disused building into a village hall and facilitate more opportunities for children and young people to socialise, exercise and take part in educational activities.

"Over the last couple of years, we’ve all realised that communities are more important than ever," said Karen. 

"When things are tough, you need those close to you. That’s why I was so passionate about supporting people during the pandemic - people were so grateful that someone would be there if they needed it.

"I’m now excited to get even more involved in the village and carry on helping out." 

Karen attended the Eden Project's online Community Camp earlier this year, designed to support people who want to do positive things where they live, and she has encouraged others to do so. 

She said: "Attending camp was so inspirational and hearing from all the brilliant speakers made me feel like I could explore community work more too.

"It’s all about believing in yourself and having the confidence to go ahead and give your ideas a go!" 

Tracey Robbins, Head of Eden Project Communities UK Delivery, said: "Karen is just one of the 1,600 community-minded people who have been inspired to start more than 1,000 initiatives at our camps over the years.

"She’s testament to the idea that anyone can support their community to thrive just by taking that all-important first step of exploring their ideas.

"For many of us around the country, the pandemic resulted in more time spent with our neighbours and local communities than ever before, but we also found ourselves lonelier and more isolated.

"That’s why we’re keen to welcome to camp people who want to begin to grow the connections they’ve made, whether that’s meant hosting online coffee mornings during the pandemic, setting up a neighbourhood contact group, or even taking part in your first Big Lunch." 

The Community Camps are provided by Eden Project Communities, who have also run The Big Lunch every year since 2009 to celebrate and give thanks to our neighbours and communities. 

Community Camp takes place on October 1-2 and will feature speakers, networking opportunities, interactive sessions and practical activities. 

For more information or to sign up, visit: www.edenprojectcommunities.com