THE FOUNDERS of a community organisation are marking more than five years of helping people through a pandemic and even a far-off war.

The TavistockHealth and Wellbeing Alliance continues to reach hundreds of people by directing them to sources of disparate help and information. It was formed nearly six years ago to bring together representatives from statutory agencies working in, or responsible for, health and social care and local voluntary and community groups across the Tavistock area. The idea is to improve communication and good practice in the interests of the health and wellbeing of residents.

Impetus for the formation of the alliance came from Debo Sellis, a West Devon borough and Devon county councillor. It has flourished under the leadership of West Devon CVS (Community & Voluntary Services) and involvement of the NHS.

The alliance has proved indispensible during the covid pandemic, the cost of living crisis and in helping refugees from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Cllr Sellis said: ‘The alliance has blossomed and I admit to being evangelical about it. The way GPs and NHS have played a full part under the expert chaimanship of Karen Nolan and guidance by West Devon CVS has made it a success and a vital and important part of the community. I provided the catalyst originally when I was looking at ways of trying to help all those people who looked to me as a councillor, but there were cuts and more cuts in funding and it all looked a bit bleak. But the secret to the alliance thriving has been the strong sense of community and voluntary sector here which has many unsung heroes. So, I set about linking the community sources of help in a systematic way so they could be accessed by people needing support with health and wellbeing. This is where the CVS were vital, helping create the fantastic network that is the alliance.’

She added: ‘Little did we know then that a pandemic and major war in Ukraine were coming. The directory of health and wellbeing sources of help was crucial during covid. The alliance has been key to supporting Ukrainian refugees with the specific needs of young families from another country.’

Karen Nolan: ‘We work to understand the needs in our local communities and strive to find ways we can make a difference working together creatively. We are stronger as a group of community providers and have given a voice about what is needed to colleagues in councils, health and social care, and well improving the understanding of what happens on the ground in our community.’ Online advice at InTouchTavistock: