‘Phone a friend’ plan in the offing

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A first . . . Dunedin Returned and Services Association president Lox Kellas contemplates a year without an Anzac Day dawn service, at the cenotaph in Queen's Gardens. PHOTO: DARRYL BASER

The Dunedin RSA is working on alternative ways to stay in touch with veterans and their families in the community during the Covid-19 Level 4 restrictions.

RSA Welfare Trust support adviser Niall Shepherd is keen to start a wave of contact throughout the community through a simple “phone a friend” idea.

“The idea is to encourage everyone I can to phone at least two people they know and care about, to check on their welfare, and to encourage them to ring two people,” Mr Shepherd said.

“If those four people each ring two people, then those eight ring two people each, and so on, it won’t take long for a huge number of people to be contacted.

“I am hoping that, by doing this, we can reach vulnerable people on their own without the internet.

“And it will also be a way for people to do something that makes them feel good,” Mr Shepherd said.

Working from home since returning from Australia early on Friday morning, Mr Shepherd said the trust was “willing to help” during the restrictions.

“That help might have to take a different form from usual,” he said.

Mr Shepherd said 1500 people were on the trust’s database, including veterans and families with service connections.

Last week, the New Zealand Returned and Services Association moved to cancel Anzac Day services across the country for the first time since they were started in 1916.

It has also postponed the national Poppy Day appeal for the first time since they were started in 1922.

Dunedin RSA president Lox Kellas said the organisation needed to be resilient at this difficult time.

“Our whole lifestyle has just been thrown into disarray . . . but as they say . . . keep calm and carry on,” Mr Kellas said.

“That is all you can do.”

The Dunedin RSA had discussed alternative ways for the community to commemorate Anzac Day, although the Government’s Level 4 restrictions would make this difficult.