We’re well into the festive season now and many of our partners and friends across the city are looking forward to a well-earned break in the coming week. It’s been an extraordinary year, 2020, and we’ve been witness to some truly exceptional – true – stories here at Exeter Community Wellbeing.

People across our communities – Exeter is, after all, a city of interconnected villages – are celebrating the festive season in different ways than usual this time around. We call it the ‘festive season’ because, proud of our diversity, we recognise that there’s more than one celebration going on at this time of year. Christmas is just around the corner, Hanukkah was celebrated earlier in the month and Diwali back in November. There’s a common theme, which isn’t unique to any one faith or spot in the calendar, and that is a theme we have felt coursing through the whole of this year.

Togetherness.

We have had to distance ourselves physically from others but through this we have remembered existing connections and forged new ones, in our families, friend groups, workplaces and communities.

Our ever generous Local Area Teams, as we’ve come to call the network of volunteers across the city giving their own time and expertise to support their communities, continue to provide various services over the festive period.

You can check out what local food provision is in place on our web page, here. Exeter Community Wellbeing will be closing the COVID-19 response phone line from 12.00pm 24 December 2020 until 9.00am 4 January 2021. We’ve got people on hand to deal with emergency requests throughout, though, and people can get in touch through the website or by emailing ECWT@exeter.gov.uk. You can also still access Exeter City Council’s general out of hours emergency service at 01392 265000.

Emergency requests are things like urgent food, utility needs or prescription requests, or emergency applications for grants from our Wellbeing Fund. Please do pass on this information to anyone who may need it.

This is traditionally a time when we take a moment to pause, to reflect on the year that is coming to a close. It’s a chance to reconnect with loved ones and to show others that we care for them. Things are going to look a little bit different this year, but the physical distance between us doesn’t change our ability to take care of each other; it just means we find new ways to reach out and take more time to think about those around us who might appreciate a kind word, gesture, or a bit of practical support. We aren’t actually further apart than we were a year ago, not in the ways that really matter. We’re learning to get closer together.

But you don’t need us to tell you that, we learnt it from you.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Thank you to Ebbie Peters, Wellbeing Exeter Community Builder for the Pennsylvania and Pinhoe areas, who let us use the photos of the Exeter Community Initiatives ‘5 Ways to Wellbeing’ Christmas Tree. Thanks also to all of our community storytellers this year, for sharing their ups and downs and photos as we’ve navigated this year together!

Exeter Community Wellbeing is co-ordinated by a team including Wellbeing Exeter partners, Devon Community Foundation, Exeter Community Initiatives, Exeter Connect, City Community Trust and Exeter City Council. Funding partners include Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and Sport England.