YOUR EVERYDAY HEROES
WITH A HEART OF TREASURE
Whether it was for inspirational kindness, an incredible act of bravery or for making a difference during these adverse times, we wanted to say thank you to the everyday heroes in your community. It was no small feat, but we managed to pick 50 extremely deserving winners to treat to a £50 gift card. Here are just a few of their stories…
Like probably most people in the UK, Coronavirus has had a big negative impact on my life, but one positive thing has been to show the strength and importance of our local communities. This is why I wanted to do my bit and help others where I could. I am in my 60s, live in a small village and live alone as I lost my lovely husband to cancer some years ago. A group of us offered help to people in the village, and I ended up shopping for quite a few older people who were self-isolating.
I have been shopping every week for five households, plus myself, which was more of a challenge and more stressful than I had ever anticipated, although I have got more used to it now. Making sure things went in the correct person’s bag in my trolley, and finding things that I would never buy myself, were the main challenges, and thank goodness for the patient workers on the tills at the local supermarket when I was putting through six individual lots of shopping and sorting out the various receipts. But the upside has been seeing how grateful people have been for my help and getting to know people who I had never interacted with before. It’s nice now when I take their shopping to have a chat and a laugh together - trying to keep cheerful despite what is happening is the best way I believe.
I also helped decorate my village with flags for an impromptu socially distanced VE Day celebration back in May, and what a lovely day it turned out to be. Many villagers, old and young, gathered around the pond for a few drinks, and even a bit of singing and dancing. So many people said afterwards what a tonic it had been. I’m lucky to live in a small community where people look out for each other.
I am passionate about nature and wildlife and do various volunteer activities in that area. One task I have continued with is checking the cows on a local nature reserve and reporting back to the grazier that they are all OK. These are English Longhorn cattle, an ancient breed, and are all ‘old girls’ well past their breeding time, so are less likely to be bothered by dogs or people. At the beginning of lockdown, to avoid meeting people, I would go there very early in the morning and it was lovely to wander quietly over the grazing area listening to the birds - really calming. Nature is such a great tonic.
The law often disproportionately and detrimentally impacts the vulnerable, disadvantaged and marginalised. At a time when very little legal aid is available, people often find themselves without legal help or advice. This has been accentuated by the Covid-19 crisis in a number of areas of law and as a consequence of the pandemic we had to shut down all our face to face meetings with clients. However, I came up with the idea of running a Covid-19 virtual vacation scheme to provide legal advice to those impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Working collaboratively with colleagues, lawyers, video experts and most importantly the students, we worked intensely to put together advice and videos in areas of law that had been impacted by Covid-19. The whole event was a fantastic success. Further, and after navigating data protection and insurance requirements, we also moved our usual legal advice provision online onto a virtual platform, where demand for help has been extremely high. Through volunteering in these schemes, and under the supervision of volunteer lawyers, the students have used their legal knowledge to help members of the public, at a time of real need, whilst also developing their own passion for social justice.
I’ve been volunteering with St John Ambulance since 2011 and have now given around 7,000 hours. I started as a first aider, attending events to help those who develop an injury or illness anywhere from village fetes to V Festival, the London Marathon and Wimbledon. Nowadays I’m practising as a doctor with St John, responding to 999 calls in an emergency ambulance and looking forward to the return of events - including our local premiership football matches! I’ve been fortunate to work alongside hundreds, if not thousands, of amazing volunteers who are currently doing more than ever: COVID has led to St John’s biggest ever ambulance deployment, as well as volunteers helping in hospital A&Es and wards, with blood donation sessions, with mobile cancer care units, and much more besides. Volunteering has opened up a world of opportunities for me - I’m also a trainer, youth leader, cycle responder, part of our ‘medical response team’ which deals with dense crowd environments at events, I sit on some national working groups, and have previously advocated nationally, line managed up to fifty volunteers, worked as a community first responder with NHS ambulance services, and more. Recently, I’ve written the medical content for a national emergency ambulance crew course. Perhaps most importantly, it’s how I met my girlfriend!
An area of volunteering which I’ve most enjoyed has been working within and benefitting my local community - whether through St John, tutoring, Scouts or working in the NHS. Just over a year ago I was looking to expand this and became a trustee with Together Co, a loneliness charity in Brighton & Hove which creates connections to change lives. We run befriending and social prescribing services, have a strong volunteer base, and share our expertise nationally. I’m incredibly proud to be part of the team. COVID has caused huge amounts of isolation and loneliness across the country and the team have worked exceptionally hard to provide maximum support to those in need. Whilst working in a hospital, a GP surgery and now A&E, I often came across patients whose isolation led to both physical and mental health decline and it’s fantastic to have volunteering organisations like Together Co working to improve this situation.
When COVID first came around, I joined a couple of other doctors to help deliver training to staff within our hospital. At the end of an (exhausting) week, I’d trained 500 people in the basics of the disease and how to use the relevant PPE, which is critical to keeping our healthcare staff safe. COVID has been difficult on us all - with more intense rotas, new responsibilities, different ways of working, decreased social opportunities and, of course, the unknown - but the innovation and camaraderie has been phenomenal. I’ve now moved into an educational role, whereby I'm spending a significant part of my time teaching medical students from first through to final year, alongside working clinically in A&E. I’m enormously excited to be part of training the next generation of medics.
If anyone else is interested in volunteering, I’d strongly encourage them to do so. Work out what you’d like to do and have a look online - there are thousands of roles available and there will always be someone who can benefit from you; whether that’s through chatting to someone lonely, driving someone to appointments, providing medical care or helping at an animal sanctuary. Volunteering at its heart is flexible, rewarding and about improving the world we live in. Whether it’s an hour a month or 40 hours a week, there are a world of opportunities and you might end up hooked!