Meet the community heroes changing lives during lockdown

Meet the community heroes changing lives during lockdown

May 21, 2020 Off By ayurceuticscom

“I COOKED SIX LASAGNES BUT KNEW WE COULD DO MORE!”

Chloe Hall, 26, lives near central London and is a marketing manager for a start-up company. After being furloughed, she co-founded Furloughed Foodies with her friend Floris ten Nijenhuis.

When I was furloughed, I didn’t know what to do. Then Floris asked me to cook some lasagnes for the NHS – he’d started cooking for hospitals including Kings and St Thomas’s where he knew doctors.

Why he asked for lasagnes I don’t know – we’d been flatmates so he’d tasted my cooking before although I don’t remember ever cooking one for him.

So on my first day of furlough I bought some throwaway metal containers from Wilko – it was still open – and bought all the ingredients I needed for five or six lasagnes, enough for 30-40 NHS workers.

They took most of the day to make but it gave me a sense of purpose. And I knew it could potentially be something bigger.

It was needed – doctors and nurses in COVID wards really struggle to get good food as they’re not allowed in other parts of the hospital and canteens close at 5pm.

Being furloughed was upsetting but now I’m using my time to support the NHS while they do an incredible job

So we set up the Instagram hashtag #furloughedfoodieslondon and were inundated with requests to volunteer. We got lots of donations too – until then, we’d paid for the ingredients ourselves.

It’s snowballed and now we have over 350 volunteers delivering to over 15 hospitals in the capital feeding 100 NHS workers with every delivery – more than 2,200 meals a week.

While we now order biodegradable containers from a catering website, deliveries are still done by car – we never go into the hospital and keep a safe distance.

I still cook every week – we choose things that cost under £1.50 a portion and are easy to cook in bulk like bolognaise, chilli and soups. I constantly get sent pictures of what other volunteers are cooking and am constantly hungry!

We’ve had loads of feedback and the messages of gratitude and photos of doctors and nurses enjoying the meals are what keep us going.

Being furloughed was quite daunting – I was quite upset – but now I’m making an impact and using my time effectively. It’s satisfying knowing we can support the NHS while they’re doing an incredible job.

“WE VISITED A 99-YEAR-OLD MAN WITH A POST-IT ON HIS DOOR SAYING ‘HELP ME’”

Phil Irons, 36, is head of regions at Metro newspaper and lives in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, with his fiancée Kelly Smith, 32, an account manager, and their two children Rudy, four, and Summer, two. He set up a support group to help the elderly and vulnerable in his town.

One Sunday a week before lockdown, my fiancée Kelly and I were watching the news and it had started getting serious – the Government was talking about social distancing.

I had a sense that it would be worse than we thought and that people would soon start needing help – what help I didn’t know – so we set up the Uttoxeter COVID-19 support group on Facebook.

Within an hour it had 600 members. By the time we woke up the next morning it had 2,000. People were unsure and worried and they clearly wanted to help each other.

There’s a genuine sense of community in the town now that will carry on in the years ahead

We knew a lot of the elderly and vulnerable wouldn’t necessarily be on Facebook so we created a dedicated helpline, manned by two people around-the-clock and produced leaflets with the number on.

They said, ‘If you need help shopping or getting medicine, call this number’ and were posted through about 1,000 doors.

The first request came from a 92-year-old lady who lived six doors away from me. I’d never met her. She needed shopping and when I took it round she was so happy – until she’d been worried about what she was going to do.

Early on, we got a phone call from a friend of a 99-year-old and when we went round, there was a post-it note on his door saying, ‘Help me’. No one would have seen it. We got a fresh fruit and veg delivery to him that day and he’s been looked after ever since.

Now we’re working with JCB, a local company, who are giving us 200 freshly made sandwiches each week to distribute with prescriptions and put into foodbanks.

Even the council and GPs are referring people to our volunteer service – which now has 6,000 members – because it works so well.

There’s a genuine sense of community here now and I think we’ll carry on trying to support the town in the years ahead. It’s been lovely to be a part of it.

CLOSER COMMUNITIES
Lockdown has helped bring neighbourhoods closer together, a recent YouGov poll found. Two-fifths of people said there was a much stronger sense of community in their area since the outbreak began. Many added that the air outdoors was noticeably cleaner, and they saw more wildlife.

“WE ARE LIKE AN EXTENDED FAMILY FOR THOSE IN NEED”

Charandeep Singh, 30, is deputy chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and lives in Glasgow. Through Sikhs in Scotland, a cultural and community charity, he helped set up The Sikh Food Bank and meal delivery service. He says:

A few days before the lockdown was announced, myself and a small group of volunteers for Sikhs in Scotland were bandying around ideas about how we could support people during this crisis.

We settled on The Sikh Food Bank by Sikhs in Scotland, as food banks are a key resource, and we launched the next day – March 21 – so as not to delay. We knew people needed food and that we could deliver.

While it’s inspired by Sikh values of community service, it’s available to anyone – in fact most of the 150 food parcels we deliver in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen each week are to non-Sikhs.

The parcels are pretty extensive. There are the staples such as milk and bread, tinned foods including beans and pulses, dry goods like tea, coffee and cereals and snacks.

There’s also plenty of fruit and vegetables bought on the same day as delivery so they’re fresh. We tell the local supermarkets and wholesalers what we need and they make sure it’s available for us.

We had the idea for a food bank and launched the next day – we didn’t want to delay as people needed food

As well as toiletries, each week there’s a treat. At Easter it was a chocolate egg for everyone, two days later it was the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi so we provided a curry and last week it was boxes of Swiss rolls.

And because we’re trying to be like an extended family, we try to make them personal by asking everyone if there’s something they’re really like. For some it’s a certain chocolate bar, for others it’s chilli oil. It takes us a bit more time but the results are worth it.

The reaction has been overwhelming and heart-warming. We’ve been getting lots of messages through Facebook and Twitter and politicians of all parties have been promoting it, helping people know we’re here to help them.

Soon after opening The Sikh Food Bank by Sikhs in Scotland, we started a meal delivery service and have given out 20,000 so far to the elderly, to support those who receive the food parcels, to homeless shelters and key workers like nurses and police.

Although deliveries are done respecting social distancing, the volunteers always give the recipient a smile and a wave through the window as human interaction is so important.

“BEING A DJ FOR OTHER KIDS GIVES HIM CONFIDENCE“

Harry Selley, nine, lives in Truro, Cornwall, with his father Martyn, 44, mother Emmillie, 41, brother Max, 13, and sister Maisy, seven. ‘DJ Harry’ has been holding discos for other children during lockdown. Martyn says:

Harry was diagnosed with autism last year and has to have a routine so lockdown really did affect him. But doing the disco gives him a focus.

He’s always liked going to places where there’s entertainment when we go on holiday and when he comes home he’ll replicate what he’s seen.

Two years ago, all he wanted to do was go to a disco – he’d never really been invited to any birthday parties.

So when he turned eight, we found a DJ who said Harry could help him. He didn’t need any friends there and stood with the DJ doing all sorts of bits and pieces.

He loved it and I found a lady online selling a whole disco set-up her son didn’t need any more for £70 and bought it.

He puts on his multi-coloured hat and becomes a different person, dancing and singing for children around the world

For his next birthday, he did his own party and came up with the name DJ Harry. A mum there asked him to do her little girl’s birthday – he got paid £30 which was amazing to him.

Then lockdown happened. We tried to get him to do Joe Wicks’ PE which lasted about 20 minutes but then he said, ‘Can I do a show every day?’ So at 2pm he did a kids’ disco on his YouTube channel and Facebook for half an hour.

When Harry puts his multi-coloured hat on, he becomes a different person – he dances and sings, does shout outs and plays an eclectic mix of Black Lace, dance classics and anything in the charts.

He’s got the works – lights, microphone, smoke machine – and is watched by people around the world, in Morocco, Abu Dhabi and Cape Town.

Currently he’s having a rest from his daily show and concentrating on his outdoor disco on Thursdays after Clap For Carers – the last one got 3,800 views online.

To know how much he struggles normally and see him enjoying himself and being confident makes your heart soar. We’re so proud of him.