Our Lockdown Stories
We know that this is a difficult time for all of our member groups, with many of you having to suspend your normal activities, but we would love to know how your group is dealing with the current situation? Are you doing things differently? Are you still able to help in some way, especially if it is different to the way you normally operate?
If your group has a story to share then please email Debbie.firstname.lastname@example.org. Your story will help to inspire other groups to try an alternative way to raise funds, find volunteers, help frontline staff or the community in the current situation. The articles here show how some groups are changing what they do and how it is making a difference to so many people.
Arts and Minds – Improving Wellbeing through Creativity
Arts and Minds is a small Cambridge-based charity that connects the benefits of creativity for promoting positive mental health. Their offer includes a range of creative projects like a community choir, pottery sessions for younger people with dementia, arts on prescription programmes (art workshops for people experiencing anxiety and/or depression, and a monthly creative café that allows the attendees to express themselves creatively while catching up with peers – all with the aim to improve the mental wellbeing of its attendees. We spoke to Emily, Arts and Minds’ charity director, and this is their lockdown sto
Due to the nature of their services, Arts and Minds heavily relies on face-to-face meetings. So, fortunately, when lockdown rules were enforced, the organisation was quick to adapt a virtual delivery of their services
Emily explains. For some programmes, pre-recorded videos were sent out to the participants on the day of the session so they could, e.g., sing along or follow the instructions presented at their own time. Although this was a good compromise to start with, it just wasn’t the same. “Social contact is a big part of what we offer,” Emily says. In April 2020, Arts and Minds hosted their first pottery session over Zoom, and by May this became part of their weekly routine. Other classes followed suit, and soon they had moved all of their activities into the virtual space. “Overall, we got very positive feedback!” Emily says enthusiastically. They even noticed that, by offering sessions through Zoom, they could offer their services to more people from the surrounding area and, also, to people living with physical health and mobility issues. “For most of our attendees, the online sessions were a lifeline as many people were confined to their home for most of the past 18 months.”
Despite having to face just a few challenges, the charity was aware that the online service wasn’t for everyone. Some of their attendants were not able to join in on the sessions due to technical limitations or personal reasons. Hence, Arts and Minds are very happy that they can start to offer in-person programmes again: in late June, they were able to host their first face-to-face creative café, which was a big success.
For some of the attendees, this was the first time they had left the house since March 2020. “This shows how valuable our work is and why it is so important to keep doing what we are doing,” Emily explains proudly.
Overall, Emily sees the positive that came from the situation: “We were forced to rethink our approach and learnt that we are capable of adapting to new circumstances easily.” Going forward, they want to make sure to offer a hybrid programme including face-to-face as well as online events, the latter, especially, to allow people to attend from more rural areas and those experiencing physical health conditions.
If you are based in the Cambridgeshire area and interested in how you can help Arts and Minds to expand their offer and make a difference in people’s lives, go and check their website https://artsandminds.org.uk/ and get in touch!
Estuary League of Friends
After the busiest year in its history, Topsham based charity Estuary League of Friends (Estuary), is taking a moment to thank all those who have helped them keep people safe and well during the pandemic.
Estuary has recorded over 50,000 acts of kindness in the last year alone taken by its staff, volunteers, donors and funders to help others in need.
The charity’s bid to thank all its supporters will mark the first ever national Thank You Day on Sunday 4th July.
How local people kept us going Estuary provides a range of services to help the elderly, disabled and vulnerable in communities between Exeter and Exmouth live full and independent lives.
It is no surprise therefore that in March last year, the phones were ringing off the hook with people worried about what COVID-19 and social restrictions would mean for them and their vulnerable family members. But having to close its community hub, Nancy Potter House, and two charity shops meant that the charity was losing over half its monthly income (53%) and was in a difficult financial position for the first time in years.
Luckily, the charity was soon inundated with support. 180 new volunteers stepped forward to help (altogether 231 local people gave 9,156 hours of their time in the last year), 345 local people donated to the charity’s emergency appeal raising an incredible £47,500 in under a month, and 33 local, regional and national grant-makers offered the charity a lifeline through one-off funding.
Thanks to this outpouring of support, Estuary was able to respond to calls for help from over 800 vulnerable local people and families in need.
Estuary mobilised volunteers to make nearly 6,000 deliveries of groceries, prescriptions and other essential supplies to those who were shielding or isolating, and to make nearly 500 befriending telephone calls to check in regularly on the most vulnerable. It’s community café became a hive of activity preparing nearly 8,000 nutritious meals through the year which were delivered at lunchtime, still steaming hot, by volunteers to the homes of those finding it difficult to prepare their own meals. The local WI and Craft Group sewed over 1,000 scrubs distributed to local hospitals and nearly 500 face masks for all the community. When the COVID vaccinations became available, Estuary and its volunteer drivers were ready to drive local people safely to get their jabs. All this and so much more was made possible thanks to the generosity of our community.
This is why Estuary is taking this opportunity to say “thank you” to all those who have helped us through this last year to mark the country’s first ever national Thank You Day on Sunday 4th July.
Chief Executive, Rachel Gilpin, says:
“This last year has been so tough for so many. But I am incredibly proud to be part of a community so quick to pull together to help others.
“When we had record numbers of people turning to us for help, local people stepped forward to volunteer. When we were losing income fast, our supporters generously donated what they could to help keep our services running.
“This is why we want to thank everyone who has helped out and who has contributed to the incredible community spirit we all needed to get through this last year.”
For further information please visit www.estuaryleague.org or call Rachel Gilpin on 01392 879009.
Jacob was a happy and curious child. After having been diagnosed at 6 months of age with congenital muscular dystrophy, a life-limiting condition, the family made it a priority to capture as much of their time together in pictures and videos as possible. After Jacob’s sudden passing in February 2004, they found great comfort in the photos and video snippets. Experiencing this loss made them aware that there are plenty of parents who are going through a similar experience and would be grateful to have something to remember their child by after their passing. So, they decided to create JUMP Children’s Charity, an organisation that provides support for families whose children suffer from terminal and life limiting illnesses. Operating in the North West of England and North Wales, they provide professional photoshoots for families gifting them an album filled with memories of their child. In the beginning, they were able to aid one family per month. Now, 17 years later, JUMP supports around 100 families per year. We spoke to Christine Bentham, founding member and trustee chairman of the charity, about their lockdown experience.
Being a charity that relies heavily on face-to-face meetings, JUMP had to quickly reshuffle and adapt to the new situation: Despite the limiting social distancing rules, they managed to conduct around 50 COVID-safe photoshoots during lockdown. Being well aware that some of these families have lost their child by now, Christine is happy that they found a way to give these families a chance to make and conserve their precious memories. Further, they had to cancel many of the events they regularly hosted, the very-much-beloved Christmas Party among these. These events focus heavily on human connection, allowing families travelling a similar journey to exchange their experiences and find comfort in each other’s stories. But they also found a solution for that: In order to keep everyone as safe as possible, they moved as many of their events online as possible. This included, e.g., multiple Zoom events for the children, which allowed them to catch up and form new friendships.
For Christine, the pandemic was an opportunity to learn, adapt, and evolve the charity. Within the past 18 months, JUMP emerged from providing a one-off service to offering ongoing support for the families. This is something they definitely want to keep going forward. Hence, they decided that, besides plenty of face-to-face events planned, they will continue with their online offer as well, allowing them to make it more accessible for everyone no matter their physical or mental conditions, Christine explains enthusiastically. However, as they are growing their offer, the next challenge to tackle is getting more funding. “During the pandemic, being a member of Attend was an incredible blessing in regards to guidance on the enhanced risk assessment processes needed,” Christine says. As JUMP relies heavily on volunteers, things remain quite unpredictable. But, as lockdown is lifted and the country is opening up again, they hope to get more events up and running.
If you now feel like getting involved with JUMP, check out their website and get in touch. You could be a volunteer, a fundraiser, or contribute by donating a location, food, or entertainment for their events, and make a difference in your community!
Friends of Milton Keynes Hospital and Community
Sent in by Clare Logan, Volunteer Recruiter and Fundraiser
For many patients at Milton Keynes University Hospital the highlight of the day was the MK Friends ward trolley. The daily trolley, run by our volunteers, offered newspapers, magazines, drinks, and snacks but due to Covid-19 there was no choice but to suspend the service. Our hospital shop remained open but to NHS staff only and we soon found that staff were coming in to buy essential items for patients. it was then decided that MK Friends would launch their online shop with delivery to the hospital wards. Patients, their families, and friends can order items which will be delivered the same day if the order if placed before 11am otherwise it will be the next day. A wide range of products are available, drinks and snacks, something to read, essential toiletries, clothing, even a USB cable, ear plugs or reading glasses. At a time when visiting is restricted or a patient arrives in a hurry without essential items, we have found this service really makes a difference. Orders have been placed from loved ones around the world who are not able to visit but lets the patient know they are thinking of them. Many people have ordered treats for staff to show their appreciation and even random donations to anyone on the wards that needs cheering up.
MK Friends of Milton Keynes Hospital & Community has been raising runds for over 40 years. Our online shop, we believe, is the first of its type in the country and is proving to be a big success. All profits go towards items and equipment for MK Hospital and the surrounding community.
Resources for Recovery
From volunteers assisting the vaccination programme to providing community transport, Unity has continued to provide critical support in the community throughout the pandemic and this includes vital assistance to charities and community groups.
Unity’s voluntary sector support team are there to assist any charities or groups who may be struggling to recover from the impact of the virus, whether this is due to a lack of volunteers, loss of members, a reduction in funding or perhaps a need for free digital support.
The coronavirus has impacted on everyday services too such as lunch clubs, social groups and other early interventions provided by the charity sector.
To aid support for individuals who may not know where to turn, the BIG Lottery funded the development of a new Unity Directory affectionately known as the CHAWD, the ‘Charity Health and Wellbeing Directory’ for Test Valley, as part of a digital inclusion grant of £45,000.
The CHAWD is a fantastic, repository of information on local groups, charities and health and wellbeing services designed to help individuals identify the assistance they may need.
Terry Bishop, Unity Chief Executive said, "So many groups and individuals have suffered as a result of Covid 19 and Unity is working hard to assist in as many ways as possible to make life easier all around. Whether that is helping groups with funding advice, setting up new groups where a need has been identified or supporting individuals with a directory of services right across the borough to enable people to find local services and activities. The next step in this process, is to try and engage with groups who have not been in touch with Unity to offer them the opportunity of being a part of this fantastic resource.”Are you a charity or community group in the Test Valley area and if so, would you like to be included in this free online directory? Or maybe your organisation is struggling and could do with a bit of advice or support. If so, please contact the Unity voluntary sector support team who are there to provide free assistance.
Check out the brand new CHAWD for yourself by clicking the link below or contact us through the website for further information.
At the moment, there are about 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. And although there is no cure for it yet, there are ways to reduce the symptoms, slow down its progress, and make people feel better. One thing that is proven to improve the life quality of people with dementia is interacting and being surrounded by nature. Evidence shows that people with dementia who frequently take part in outdoor activity have increased and more sustained levels of well-being and a higher quality of life. Further, a healthy lifestyle that includes regular outdoor activity can significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia in the future. Dementia Adventure is a registered charity based in Essex that exactly focuses on that: their goal is to support people with dementia to get outside, interact and connect with nature and their community, and retain a sense of adventure in their lives. We spoke to Kath Vale, the Head of Communications and Fundraising of the organisation to check in how they experienced the lockdown and what their post-lockdown plans are as things are opening back up.
Dementia is incredibly isolating due to the course of the condition itself. And the government telling people to reduce social contact and stay at home didn’t help with that. For people with dementia, social contact is crucial to slow down the progress of the condition as much as possible. The brain is like a muscle, and social interaction equals exercising, Kath explained.
Dementia Adventure allows the carers to take a break while enjoying some quality time with their loved ones. Some of their projects are supported days out or organised group holidays that allow people to get out of the house with their friends and family, interact with other people, and experience some days off accompanied by experienced staff and volunteers. This way, people with dementia as well as carers can get a break from their everyday life and relax. Sadly, these amazing offers were not possible during lockdown as the social distancing rules imposed by the government could not be ensured to be adhered to. And although it was impossible to offer an in-person replacement for the holidays that were cancelled because of the pandemic, Dementia Adventure still did their best to ensure that people did not feel left behind by offering regular calls and virtual coffee-and-chats Zoom sessions as a “lifeline of human contact.”
In general, many of the offers run by Dementia Adventure were moved into a virtual space during lockdown. The charity offers different educational training classes including dementia skills training sessions, which help carers to get information on the condition and provide them with the necessary knowledge after a diagnosis. By moving these sessions into an online space, they were not only able to keep up the support and educational offer but, due to easier accessibility and the location-independence of the sessions, they also reached more people from all across the UK than with their in-person sessions pre-lockdown. A further project that feeds into this were short films of dementia patients who talk about their experiences with the condition before and during lockdown. Hearing the voices of people with dementia and their stories helped many carers to adjust better after the diagnosis and fostered a higher understanding for the condition.
As a result of the feedback during lockdown, Dementia Adventure developed confidence building sessions. Having been advised to stay inside their own four walls for such a long time, many of the people have lost confidence in their social abilities and are scared that they would not be able to do the things they did before lockdown. Hence, support and encouragement are needed to help them build up their confidence again. These speciality training session help carers to support their loved ones to build back up the confidence to leave the house and to interact with the community and nature.
Many of the clients explained that during lockdown they really enjoyed some time outside. When outside, their dementia seems to disappear. Closely adhering to the mantra of the charity to enjoy nature on the doorstep, one of the clients said that they frequently went into the garden behind their house when they felt an anxiety attack flaring up. One day during lockdown, they just went outside to “have a few tears on my own.” While they were sitting in the grass, they saw a hedgehog. They started observing the spiky animal going about its daily life, “and immediately I was distracted from my anxiety, my stress, my depression.” The anxiety calmed down and they noticed a deep relaxation spreading throughout their body. “I didn’t have dementia. I didn’t have any problems at all. And that’s what nature does for you. It distracts you. It’s beautiful,” they explained. And this is exactly why Dementia Adventure offers these nature and outdoor experiences. “It is all about feeling good in the here and now,” Kath explained. This experience and many more were collected and put into short films to use for educational purposes in training sessions and similar.
Financially, the lockdown was challenging as well. However, moving things into a fully virtual space allowed the charity to save some money. Additionally, “we were also supported by the players of the Peoples Postcode Lottery all throughout lockdown,” Kath explained. In times like these, it is crucial to have a flexible funder who stuck with the organisation throughout the pandemic and offered support when needed. Thanks to these being in place, Dementia Adventure as a charity is now able to quickly adapt and adjust to the lifting of lockdown. For 2021, they have planned smaller group-size holidays to pick their programme back up. Going forward, there are plans for bigger holidays and offers coming in 2022, Kath revealed, all of them focused around experiences in nature.
If you are now curious about how to get involved with Dementia Adventure, there are multiple ways to get in contact with them. The best way would be to fill in the contact form on their website dementiaadventure.org. They are happy to welcome new volunteers from the Essex area for their confidence building programme. Further, they run a fundraising project at the minute, called DA85, challenging people to cover a distance of 85 miles at their own pace – that's 1 mile for 1000 people with dementia in the UK. No matter if running, walking, cycling, swimming, on the back of a horse – it is your choice how you complete the challenge. It is open until the 31st of December 2021, and if you want to take part in the challenge, you can sign up for it here.
Home From Hospital
Home From Hospital is a registered charity in Birmingham assisting people after an elongated hospital stay. On average, the 50 members of staff and 45 volunteers of the organisation help more than 1300 clients per year to settle back in at home after being discharged. The service, lasting up to six weeks, is available to all Birmingham residents who are at least 18 years old and have been in hospital in the city or elsewhere. Providing these types of service requires face-to-face meetings of volunteers and clients, which put the organisation into a bit of a pickle during COVID. We spoke to Rosalind, a fundraiser for Home From hospital, about their COVID and lockdown experience.
People returning home after being discharged after an elongated hospital stay require different types of help, which are provided by Home From Hospital, for example, assisting during the travel home, going for food shops, providing food parcels on the day of discharge, accompanying to follow up appointments, visiting for a friendly chat, and much more. But the majority of the volunteers are over 65, so they were especially vulnerable. Therefore, the organisation had to face difficult times – while they wanted to ensure that they would provide as much help as possible to people in need, they also had to be very mindful about not putting anyone at risk. Luckily, most services could adapt: one workaround was to conduct most of the initial assessment and the befriending service through the phone. Further, by pre-making food parcels for clients in one location, bulk-buying supplies, and ensuring that the volunteers had to go to the supermarket as little as possible, they could ensure to keep both volunteers as well as clients as safe as possible. “It was a lot of adapting and figuring things out, but it was worth it,” Rosalind says with a smile in her voice.
Another issue they had to face was related to their food shop service: clients usually provide cash for the shop and get the groceries and their change back after. However, this was not feasible with social distancing rules in place; many clients were shielding, so dropping by the bank to get out some cash was another issue. Still, although all services the organisation provides are free of charge, the clients need to pay for their groceries. Luckily there was emergency COVID funding, which Home From Hospital could use to pay for these food shops and no one had to go hungry. Extra funding provided around Christmas even allowed them to hand out free food parcels to people in need. “Many people suddenly found themselves in a difficult position, and we were very pleased to help!”
When we asked if anything out of the ordinary had happened, Rosalind didn’t have to ponder for long: one of the services they introduced quite early into the first lockdown was providing smartphones and tablets as well as teaching people how to use the devices enabling them to stay in touch with their loved ones. This project has been going on for about 12 months by now allowing clients not only to chat to their family and friends but also to see their faces, although being miles apart, reducing loneliness and isolation one device at a time. One of her favourite stories is about a couple from Birmingham, both in their 80s: Right before the first lockdown, the husband’s care needs increased, so he had to go into a nursing home. When the Home From Hospital volunteer met the couple, they hadn’t seen each other in more than 10 months – the longest time they’ve ever spent apart. The tablets allowed them to see and talk to each other again –¬ finally – after missing each other dearly for such a long time. It was a very emotional virtual reunion with many tears of joy. And it’s heart-warming stories like these that are the silver linings in these difficult times.
“It is easy to focus on what you think is important or on what you think you need. But everyone’s situation is different. For some people, nothing changed at all, while others were suddenly very lonely.” The biggest takeaway for Rosalind was that they need to constantly adapt with the client’s needs in mind. By constantly evaluating client feedback, they ensure that their voices are being heard. In the end, it is all about the human connection – between volunteer and client as well as within the team. “We became really one as a team, and I am very proud about the way we adapted and got over issues!”
If you are curious about how to get involved with Home From Hospital, visit their website or email them (email@example.com) for more information. They are currently in urgent need of more enthusiastic volunteers who want to make a difference in the community.
SERV Kent (also known as the Bloodrunners) is a registered charity that provides free transportation of blood, blood products, samples, equipment, medicines, donated breast milk and other patient essential items to and from the hospitals of Kent, Demelza House Hospice, Patient Addresses and the Kent Air Ambulance. These services are provided by a team of volunteers including riders, drivers and controllers.
As a Charity, we rely entirely on donations from the public, local businesses and other community-minded groups for our income. We also hold displays & collections at events such as classic car and motor-cycle shows, carnivals, school fetes and supermarkets. We give talks about our services to anyone who would like to hear about our work in our local communities.
The last 18 months have been a very difficult time for us – as it has for many Charities & Community-minded Groups. The first lockdown in March 2020 meant that all talks & events were cancelled, which meant that our income went down to zero overnight! Whilst our members generally use their own motor bikes & cars and pay for their own fuel and other running costs, SERV Kent – Bloodrunners does have its own running costs – our HQ at Medway Services, our small fleet of motor bikes & cars and the usual business costs such as insurance, training and incidentals although when riding or driving our fleet vehicles, our members pay for the fuel they use.
Our usual operating hours are overnight and weekend daytimes including Bank Holidays however, since March 2020, our volunteers have been providing a 24 hour service to our hospitals, hospices and patients. We usually handle around 3,750 calls p.a., however, since the first lockdown we have handled over 6,750 calls to date – an increase of 80% over an average year!
Our volunteers are continuing to provide a 24 hour service for as long as it is needed and we are very grateful to all our volunteers – riders, drivers & controllers – who have stepped up to help our local communities in these very difficult times for all of us.
We are also delighted to announce that SERV Kent – Bloodrunners have been awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2021 with special designation for providing impactful support during the early months of the pandemic. This is a great honour and reflects the commitment that our volunteers have shown over the past 18 months.
One night in the early 1950s in a pub, there were six Newcastle United Fans who had an idea: broadcasting match commentary to the Royal Victoria Infirmary. Easy said and done: on Saturday, the 6th of October 1951, they broadcasted their first show – Radio Tyneside was born. Since 2018, they’ve been broadcasting on 93.6FM to the communities of Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead, promoting health and wellbeing. Today, the hospital and community radio service is a registered charity working with enthusiastic volunteers producing 24 hours of broadcast a day. We spoke to Richard Finch, the station director of Radio Tyneside, about their lockdown experience.
Being based on hospital premises, COVID had a huge influence on them. During the first lockdown, they had to close the studios and start working from home. Luckily, they had the option to buy some equipment like microphones, software and similar to enable the hosts to continue broadcasting from the safety of their own four walls. Although this wasn’t feasible for everyone, they still managed to keep up their scheduled programme.
One of their projects during lockdown was an interview series with people from the community to hear their lockdown experiences, stories, and how they are holding up. Usually interviews at Radio Tyneside are conducted in person, something that was obviously not possible during the lockdown. Still, they continued their series; they just brought it into a virtual space. Services like Zoom, MS Teams, and Skype were a lifesaver for conducting interviews, Richard explained. And the programme was well received: due to the increased patient numbers in the COVID wards, the listeners numbers doubled! Song requests and well wishings cheered the patients up and made the recovery more pleasant for them.
Luckily, the volunteers were able to return to the studio recently, even though one at a time. Now that lockdown is easing and things are opening back up again, they hope that they can soon be all back in. “We are proud that we could respond very quickly to what was a very difficult situation, everybody chipped in, and we were able to keep things running very smoothly,” Richard explained proudly. The whole experience showed them that no matter what the issue is, if they work together as a team, they can overcome it.
If you are now interested in how to get in contact with them, check out their website. At the moment, because of the still fluid situation, they aren’t able to take on new volunteers. However, they are planning to pick that up again over summer, so keep an eye on their website and get in touch
“It Broke My Heart to Send All The Volunteers Home!” – The League of Friends of The Robert Jones And Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital And Their Lockdown Story
Since 1961, the League of Friends of the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (RJAH) in Shropshire, a charming area in the English countryside close to the north Welsh border, have been providing essential support to patients, relatives, and staff through 17 different volunteer services, funding equipment and supporting wellbeing but also running a general store, a coffee shop, and even a post office on the hospital premises. With a team of about 400 volunteers, internal and external, they facilitated different fundraising events such as open water swimming competitions, coffee mornings, and personal challenges, as well as helping out at the hospital front desk with COVID checks and befriending and supporting patients who feel lonely. We spoke to Victoria Sugden, the Charity Director of the League of Friends RJAH about their COVID experience.
“In the beginning of the pandemic, there was so much insecurity,” Victoria explains. Being a charity that is located on hospital premises and with all the government restrictions in place, the League of Friends had to face dramatic changes. And with many of their volunteers being over 60, they had to act quickly: the hospital management was fast to adapt and very decisive about ensuring everyone’s safety. But that sadly meant that people had to refrain from coming in. “It broke my heart to send all the volunteers home!” For many volunteers of the League of Friends, it is more than a job: most volunteers found company and comfort in their work with the League of Friends after, for example, losing a loved one. Seeing them go home and fearing some may feel isolated was devastating. The coffee shop was closed and some staff were furloughed, just the post office remained open - a silver thread that ensured that there will be better times again.
This was a difficult situation, not only from a people point of view: with closing down the coffee shop, the fundraising also took a hit as much money came indeed from the services they are running on hospital premises. However, things are getting better again! Volunteers of the League of Friends were able to help out at the vaccination centre and delivered more than 55,000 vaccines! And luckily, by now they were able to reopen the coffee shop and put safety measures in place, such as glass screens, to protect the volunteers as much as possible. And although they could only get back a limited number of people inside the hospital, this is a big win for the organisation already.
“We just try to keep good things happening to keep peoples’ morale going. But there is a fatigue now, people just want to go back to normality,” Victoria states. And fortunately, they also received much support from outside: local Indian restaurants donated curries for the staff, Starbucks donated coffee for the vaccination centre, and even the locals got involved by sending good luck messages to all the staff, and a local seamstress created a peacock-shaped mural out of 250 hand prints of staff members, and much more! Getting all this support made them feel incredibly grateful: “Thank you to everyone who supported us. We have an amazing community and had great support from the hospital, which was wonderful!”
The next big project is to upgrade the garden for the paediatric ward to make it more accessible for wheelchairs so that the patients can enjoy some time outside in the sunshine. Right before the pandemic, the garden of the spinal ward was transformed by Horatio’s Garden with a little help from The League of Friends, and it was a blessing during the height of the pandemic, especially for the long-stay patients as it allowed them to get some fresh air despite government restrictions.
If you want to get involved with the League of Friends of the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Shropshire, go to their website https://www.friendsrjah.org.uk/. They are always looking for volunteers and help with fundraising!
English Schools' Orchestra
Since 1994, the English Schools’ Orchestra has been able to offer their annual autumn Orchestra Course to talented young musicians between 13 and 18 years of age from across the UK. This includes an intensive orchestra course as well as a concert in a national venue on the last afternoon of the programme. However, 2020 was different: “We were all disappointed that it didn’t work out last year. In fact, this was the first time we had ever had to cancel it since the Orchestra was founded,” Ellen Crann told us. Ellen is the Recruitment and Marketing Manager of the Orchestra and told us a little bit more about how they experienced the situation during lockdown.
Every year, the English Schools’ Orchestra invites experienced music students who reached a certain standard to come together with peers during a one-week, high-demanding orchestra course. The programme is extremely challenging but also offers great opportunities for the young musicians to develop and refine their craft.
During the first weeks of lockdown and restrictions, they were still hopeful that the orchestra course could take place, even if on a reduced level. At first, they decided to postpone it until February – the course usually takes place in October – and were very keen to follow through with it. But in the end, the government rules were just too restrictive, so it was not feasible and moving the orchestra programme to a virtual space would just not have been the same. So they decided, heavy-heartedly, to rather call it off than compromise on the standard they are known for. “Online is just not how the Orchestra operates. The music programme is extremely challenging, and it’s just not the same doing it virtually,” Ellen elaborated.
Keeping in contact with the students as well as the parents was the most important thing for the Orchestra during these challenging times. Instead of focusing on the negative, they tried to highlight the silver linings by trying to find alternatives. This open and honest communication was highly praised by the parents and shaped an amazing bond between the Orchestra and the participants. For 2021, 60% of last year’s participants have already confirmed to come back. One thing the Orchestra was especially proud of was that they were able to secure Jess Gillam, a world-renowned saxophonist, with whom the music students would have been able to perform in the 2020 concert. Luckily, Jess confirmed to be there for 2021 as well. “It is really nice to see the standard of young musicians we have today and to see that people are absolutely eager to come back this year!” Ellen said. They will try to do anything possible to make it happen in 2021, to offer students something they can look forward to after everything that happened in 2020, she assured.
If you are now curious about how to get involved or even want to sign up as a participant, check out their website! They still have some student placements available for the 2021 programme as well as vacancies in their new Mentor Scheme for final-year and graduate students so feel free to get in.
The Friends of Cedar House
The last year was challenging for all of us: social distancing, not being able to leave the house, and working from home made us face hurdles we’ve never even thought would be an issue at any time of our lives. Things we took for granted were suddenly stripped away from us. Life was turned upside down.
At some point during the pandemic, the situation in care homes across the UK moved into the centre of attention: numerous news outlets spoke about our elderly growing lonely due to the restrictions in place that inhibited families to see their beloved grandparents. Nurses and caretakers worked incredible hours not being able to leave the care home for days on end to ensure that the care home residents were as protected from the virus as possible. A lack of human interaction, stressed and overworked caretakers, and an overwhelming feeling of being left alone were the consequences. And yet, one thing that was rarely mentioned was the shortage of everyday essentials like toiletries many care home residents encountered. As a matter of fact, most elderly living in retirement homes rely on their family and friends to bring them things like shampoo, soap, toothpaste, etc., during visits. And with social distancing rules in place, this wasn’t possible at all.
In the midst of this strenuous situation, volunteers stepped up to provide some comfort for the care home residents by organising care packages; amongst them the Crown Church in Uxbridge, which arranged three generous toiletry donations for the Cedar House Care Home during the lockdowns. We spoke with Dan Smith, one of the pastors of the Crown Church, who was involved in the donation process.
The Crown Church was approached through email asking for a donation for the Cedar House Care Home, as the residents ran out of everyday essentials like toiletries. With many local shops being closed down due to Covid-19 as well as many residents not having the funds to pay for things like these, the care home was in desperate need of help. Since his Grandad lives in a retirement home himself, Dan is well aware of the things that went on behind the closed care home doors during the lockdown. So when he heard about the issues at the Cedar House, he knew he had to do something about it: “It was a simple call for help and a simple response.” Although there was no prior connection between the Crown Church and the Cedar House, naturally, they were happy to help. “We were well aware that there would be plenty of needs in the borough, so we asked the Crown Church community for some spare money for donations.” Due to this foresight, they were able to move quickly and help the care home out. Together with two volunteers, Dan put together a care package for the residents, including shampoos, shower gels, toothpaste, and many more everyday essentials. For the first two donations, one of the volunteers took the package to the care home, dropped it at their entry, and left immediately. It was then picked up by a care worker and brought inside—completely social distancing friendly.
Up to today, the Crown Church facilitated three toiletries care packages for the Cedar House Care Home residents. For the third donation, the Crown Church changed its approach: an Amazon order was placed and directly delivered to the care home, making the process even safer and more convenient for everyone involved.
This shows that something very simple can already make a difference—no matter if big or small—for many lives. “It really only takes one request, and people are willing to do it. Churches are always willing to do what they can to help, especially in extraordinary times like this!”
The Friends of Cedar House
Although the coronavirus pandemic has impacted us all, our care homes have unfortunately never been quieter. Strict social distancing guidelines have meant that, although staff have been able to continue their work as normal, kind and generous volunteers like Jean have been unable to give their time to care homes and put a smile on the face of the residents as they normally would.
For many volunteers like Jean, the time they spend at care homes has a hugely positive impact not only on residents but on themselves. Jean began volunteering many years ago in homes in the 1990s after her mother moved to a nursing home. The move inspired to help the residents of care homes in whatever way she could, namely injecting some fun and joy into their days through regular visits. For the families of many residents, Jean is the first port-of-call to soothe their worries about their loved one making the life-changing move to live in a care home. As Jean explains, ‘you cannot look after your loved one at home like they can do 24/7 in a car home. I explain that I had to put my mum in a care home - after you’ve got over the initial shock, you’ll realise that that’s the best thing you could have done. You can still go and visit them and if you’re able to you can take them out’. Having a friendly face like Jean explain how well looked after residents in care homes are certainly goes a long way in dissuading these very common worries.
Later on in life Jean’s partners Alzheimer's worsened, and he sadly had to move to Cedar House full time. Now with an even stronger connection to care homes, Jean continued to be passionate in making the care home a happy and vibrant place and leading her to kindly volunteer her time for not just her husband, but all the residents at Cedar House. Jean makes sure that those who unfortunately don’t have relatives or friends to visit them never feel alone. She loves talking to the residents, in her own words ‘making a fuss of them’, and making the residents feel special and valued, something which in turn adds value to Jean’s own life. As she says, ‘as soon as they see me their face lights up, That’s the payment for what you do’.
Along with the rest of the nation, Jean has been unfortunately unable to maintain her usual routine during lockdown. Outside of this time there’d be an array of activities she’d be throwing herself in at Cedar House, from a risky bet on the Grand National to celebrating raffles wins - ‘before lockdown we’d have entertainment and Easter bonnet competitions, it just makes life more normal and fun’. Jean can’t wait to get herself back in Cedar Wood house doing the volunteering that she, and the residents, love.
The future and the re-opening of Cedar House for volunteers and visitors is looking positive. Last year, Jean managed to raise a huge three thousand pounds for the home. Along with four other trustees who volunteer for another residential home, Jean managed to secure enough funds for a huge summer house for Cedar House, a place where residents can relax and enjoy some much-needed entertainment as the weather gets warmer. Jean even generously raised funds to support Cedar House at her husband's funeral, showing how much the care home means to her and her constant unwavering support for the care home. As Jean explains, ‘I haven’t been able to go since March, I just want to get my feet back under the table!’.
Both residents and volunteers rely on their relationship as a chance to connect, have fun and spend time together. As Jean explains, ‘I feel that I’m missing out on something as well as them’. Despite a turbulent year for volunteers and the roles they play, there’s been a lot of hope and we are looking forward to seeing residents back socializing and volunteers re-introduced to their roles. This is sure to put a smile on everyone’s face!
The Guild of the Royal Hospital of St Bartholomew
Compiled by the Chairman and Shop Manager and sent in By Hilary Tarr (Trustee)
As one of the original hospital friends’ organisations, the Guild of St Barts has seen so many times of national and world crisis that it has learned to take challenging times in its stride. That said, we have experienced real loss and trauma this time, losing one of our most beloved and inspiring volunteers.
Despite this, the Guild Shop, following safety protocols extremely carefully, has been proud to support St Bartholomew’s Hospital staff and patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some of our volunteers understandably decided to isolate at home, we have still been able to keep the shop open every weekday and regularly receive thanks for keeping our services available. Sadly, a ward shop trolley service we provide had to be suspended due to infection control requirements but we hope to have that service running again at some point in 2021. Our achievements were recognised during a lovely phone call from our Patron, HRH The Duke of Gloucester, who spoke for some time with a few of our volunteers after they had finished a shift in the shop.
In addition to keeping our shop service running, the Guild was happily able to provide a donation of £4,000 in 50% cold drink discounts to our amazing NHS staff and support workers as a gesture of recognition and thanks for all of their hard work and dedication.
Business in our online souvenir store was suspended from the first lockdown until early September 2020, but remained open during the second lockdown for the sale of Guild calendars and Christmas cards which saw most encouraging sales. We hope to fully open the store in spring 2021.
Also at Christmas, the Guild funded a splendid Christmas tree erected in the atrium of the Hospital’s King George V Building which delighted and cheered both staff and clinic users. The Guild’s annual Christmas Concert fundraising event successfully moved on-line with the assistance of our faithful and talented student participants from Barts and The London Music Society. It was gratifying to learn that the event reached more attendees than would have been the case if held in-person.
The Guild’s grant-giving activity slowed to a trickle in the spring of 2020, in large part because attendance at conferences, courses and other gathering events was not possible. However, we were very glad to support staff by contributing to the cost of an art and wellbeing initiative: Coping through Connection and Creativity, organised by the Lead Art Psychotherapist for St Bartholomew's Hospital. Most positive feedback was received from staff who benefitted from an outlet for expression and relief of stress. An exhibition of artwork, photography and modelling was made available for all staff to view. Since the end of last summer, the Guild has been able to award an increased number of grants, including for equipment for therapies and other benefits for patients and staff.
So, all in all, this time of loss and challenge has helped us to remember who we are: a group of concerned and active citizens, looking for practical ways to help, and cherishing one another in the process.
Chester Childbirth Appeal
Provided by Patricia Daniels
Currently, like all other charities, we have no means of fundraising, none of our classical music concerts and no fundraising events. Our Comfort Zone area has had to be taken over to be used for Covid-19 related medical use. This was an area that gave tranquility and provided peace and respite away from the clinical areas for patients' relatives and hard-working NHS staff. They could always depend on the Comfort Zone for obtaining good nutritious food, served by smiling, attentive staff and volunteers.
Any profit made by the Comfort Zone shop and cafe is a bonus as it is used to purchase items that NHS staff in the Women and Children's Unit need but cannot afford so we feel very proud of our work. Next year will see our 30th anniversary and I am proud that with the dedicated support of our committee, volunteers and patrons we have raised over £2 million to aid the NHS staff in their endeavours to provide much needed items for the mothers and their babies. However, especially without the Comfort Zone and any fundraising abilities we are looking for alternative means of support. One of the ways we are doing this is by being part of AmazonSmile. This gives the charity 0.5% of the net purchase price for anyone shopping with Amazon and mentioning the Charity.
We have received generous donations from Waitrose - £660, a microwave from Tesco for our Lavender Suite and a television provided by Morrisons for the Antenatal Day Unit..
We are also in the process of providing the following items
- A ring-fenced £75,000 to fund the Transitional Care Unit, where the parents of premature babies can gain confidence in their ability to care for their child before taking them home. This magnificent sum was raised primarily by local organisations Christleton Wednesday Club and Hope Farm Methodist Church after we visited them to display the plans, costings and need for such an area, alongside fantastic donations from many other generous people.
- 4 overnight chair-beds for our post-natal ward and bereavement unit
- Prams and Cots Galore donated a moses basket and stand and I have donated a baby bath and stand for our Lavender Suite
- 3 adjustable height cots
- A Draeger Bilirubinometer for use by the community midwives which identifies dangerous levels of jaundice enabling them to transfer the affected baby to hospital without delay
- A CTG monitor and a trolley for the Ante-natal Day Unit
- 6 paramedic bags for community midwives
- a foetal bedside resuscitator
Whatever lies ahead, I have every faith in our committee, trustees and volunteers to ensure the charity will continue to be successful and we look forward to happier, healthier times this year.
The League of Friends of the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital
Thank you to Susan Hurdiss for taking the time to speak to Attend and let us know how they are making a difference
Volunteers Join the Fight Against the Virus
During the COVID-19 crisis it seemed that the world had come to an abrupt halt. From offices to restaurants, buildings have closed and people have had to stay at home. Key workers such as hospital staff are expected to ocntinue going to work, but they have remained as vigilant as ever, doing their best to help beat the virius.
The unsung heroes of the hour are the ones who have found niche ways to utilise their skills and work to help their community. These are the volunteers who are doing what they can to support hospital staff. One particular team of volunteers, known as the League of Friends of The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, found that they could continue to support their local hospitals in creative ways.
While the majority of volunteers have had to self-isolate, some volunteers are still able to run the quaint hospital shops which are open near the main ward. It is available for hospital staff only, providing essentials such as bread, milk and fruit. The team wanted to help alleviate further stress of a shop after a long day, so they took to the web where hospital staff could pre-pay their orders and simply collect their items in minutes, It has proven a relief to the workers and maintains a sense of purpose for the young shop volunteers.
What about the volunteers who have had to self isolate? Susan Hurdiss, 'secretary, explained that volunteers are encouraged to get involved in the activities of groups like the Sew8ing Bee These groups have taken on sewing masks, gowns, and other useful materials to donate to the hospital, all from the safety of their own homes. It is a creative outlet where volunteers can learn a new skill and contirubute to their connmunity.
For those who want to help in other ways, baking homemade cakes, and donating food items to the wellbeing hub have been welcomed with open arms. The wellbeing hubs were set up for staff who are finding it difficult to cope and need a safe space to be heard. Here, volunteers would provide drinks, sandwiches, and other tasty treats whiile hospital staff could find conform in the supportive environment. Susan explained how another 27 of their volunteers have persisted in the midst of the crisis, "Our vibrant fundraising community are working very hard to raise money for portable monitoring modules. These are handy devices for the specialists, doctors, and nurses to retain details of the patients when they need to be transferred to different wards. We have keot our communication open with the hospital as to what they might need and this equipuipment is essential. All the profits we receive are going towards this equipment".
As Susan described how pleased she was to see the community coming together, she recognised that not all volunteers would be able to constantly help out as they normally would while in isolation. The group values their volunteer's efforts and ensures that they are called at least once a week to see how they are doing.
The League of Friends of the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital have set the standard high for volunteering across the globe. Finding ways to support the community, whether by offering their skills, donations or simply by staying home, together we can persist in the face of adversity.
League of Friends of Alnwick Hospital
Anne Harper, Chair of the League kindly sent us the following update:
Like all other voluntary organisations trying to raise funds is a non starter, we would normally hold our annual Coffee Morning and also a supermarket Bag Pac. We also used to receive donations and monies raised by various fund raising groups. However, we were fortunate enough to have the Captain of Foxton Golf Club ask if he could have the League of Friends as his Charity for the year 2019/20, of course we all agreed The final total we received was £1620.00 which was a pleasant boost to our funds.
Unfortunately we had to close our Hospital Shop in March and have not opened it since, we could not offer our trolley service around the ward which we all enjoyed - meeting and chatting to the patients, but health issues come first
We normally hold meetings twice a year, however, this has not happened this year. I keep in touch with our members by telephone and email , sending them Hospital updates and any requests that we receive from Matron for equipment. All our Members cannot wait to resume normal duties - but who knows when this will happen? We have an excellent group of Members, I must say last Christmas we organised a' Get Together' at one of our local Hotels, it was such a lovely happy atmosphere when Members were able to meet up with each other in different surroundings.
Every year we present the first baby born at Hillcrest Maternity Home, attached to the hospital, with a commemorative plate, unfortunately, the presentation to this year's baby, due to take place in March, had to be cancelled. The presentation is made by our President, Her Grace The Duchess of Northumberland , this will take place sometime!!!!
We are so fortunate in Alnwick to have such a lovely friendly Community Hospital, all departments are now open.
Friends of Eastbourne Hospital
The following success story was sent in by Sue Duffell, secretary:
At the beginning of April the Friends were asked if they would be able to help the hard working staff at the Eastbourne DGH with some ‘comforts’ to make their lives a little more pleasant during this difficult time. Of course, we were delighted to be able to help and immediately launched the appeal via Virgin Money Giving. The local community did not let us down, and over £43,000 was raised. Alongside the many donations from members and the public there were many individual local fundraising events, including online quizzes, cake sales sponsored walks and fitness sessions, even the auction of a share of a race horse.
With much help from the team in the Friends shop, and the shop suppliers, we were quickly able to start sourcing things from peanuts to cold drinks, fresh fruit, sweet and savoury snacks , hand and face creams , lip balms and many other items that were greatly appreciated by the staff. A distribution hub was set up within the hospital which opened at certain times during the week where members of each team were able to come and collect (at a safe distance) bags of goodies to be shared amongst their teams. This was for all staff that were working so hard at this time, not just the doctors and nurses.
In addition to that, as wards became separated into Covid and non-Covid areas, new staff rest rooms were created and from money donated to the appeal we were able to provide fridges, microwaves, kettles, toasters and coffee machines. For the doctors’ mess we provided some camp beds, reclining chairs and throws to enable them to get some well earned rest.
We were pleased to supply birthday cards and boxes of chocolates for any staff that had birthdays during this time. As time went by the needs of the staff started to change and we were able to respond to any new requests that come in.
In the long term, when the emergency is happily resolved, we have assured everyone that any remaining funds will be returned to the restricted fund that we have always maintained specifically for the benefit of Eastbourne DGH staff. Any money raised will therefore be for the benefit of our staff whether in the course of the pandemic or not.
Friends of the Hospital of St Cross
A poignant project chronicling lockdown life in a Warwickshire town is continuing to raise vital funds for dedicated hospital supporters:
Rugby: My Town In Lockdown features moving photographs and emotional testimonies of the town's residents living under the harsh COVID-19 restrictions earlier this year. Devised and compiled by local freelance professional photographer Jamie Gray, the book has already raised hundreds of pounds for the Friends of the Hospital of St Cross.
Mr Gray, a lifelong resident in the town who thought of the project while walking through the deserted Rugby streets as the pandemic initially took hold, said the book had been a true labour of love.
"Early on in lockdown I struggled to find anything worthwhile to do," Mr Gray said. "I couldn't work from home and had little work coming in. Like a lot of people, my life had been turned upside down. It struck me that although this was a terrible time for Rugby and its wonderful residents, the story of how we coped during this surreal period needed to be captured and told. It's a story of Rugby, its residents and businesses and how they have been challenged by the nationwide lockdown, but also how they overcame that challenge".
The 32-page book, which costs £10, includes several thoughts from Rugby residents living with lockdown, as well as other thought-provoking images of the town. Rugby Borough Council supported the project, helping Mr Gray meet people in the town and providing access to shielding hubs and the Rugby Foodbank.
A 20% slice of profits from each sale of the book was donated to the long-running Friends of St Cross charity, which raises money in order to donate equipment to the town's hospital and community service. A corporate photographer by trade, Mr Gray said his experiences working as a former photographer with the town's Rugby Advertiser newspaper for several years had further spurred his enthusiasm.
"I've been photographing the Rugby community for several years, and although I now focus on photographing businesses around the country, I've never lost the desire to represent my local area," Mr Gray said. "The Friends of St Cross embody everything that's great about Rugby - wonderful people uniting for a wonderful reason. That's why I wanted to help them how I could. I thank everyone who supported me. Hopefully this is a lasting document of how we were separated during lockdown but how in many ways we were all united."
The book, which has so far raised £230, has been stocked by several local shops including the Revel Bakery, Inside 22, Rugby School Enterprises, The Merchant's Inn and Rugby Cycle Repairs.
Copies are also still available at the town's Hunt's Bookshop and the Rugby Visitor Centre, as well as via their respective Facebook pages.
Willy Goldschmidt, Chairman of The Friends of St Cross, said the book, which is also available to order via www.jamiegrayphotography.co.uk is a wonderful gesture.
“This donation will be put towards the Friends Sapphire Anniversary Appeal which is celebrating 65 years since the formation of the charity and aims to raise £65,000. This year the charity has committed £200,000 towards the project which will bring Chemotherapy Services to the hospital. We believe that if everyone in Rugby, who knows someone who has been affected by cancer, donates £1 we will beat our target! We look forward to hearing of more novel ways in which Rugbeians plan to raise money for the Appeal!”
Chester Childbirth Appeal
Pat Daniels has kindly sent in the following update:
We have been unable to gain access to our office and have no means of organising any fundraising such as concerts or combined events with other local charities. However we have been able to fund some much needed items for the mothers, babies and children. The midwives have appreciated this help from us.
In October 2019, Morrisons’ Head Office in Bradford sent us a cheque for £14,000 with the express purpose of funding some billrubinometers. We had already been able to provide one of these in 2019, and this generous gift enabled us to supply a further three. A Billrubinometer, carried by the district midwife enables her to check the baby’s level of jaundice. It enables the midwife to ascertain the degree of jaundice and to get a baby with dangerous levels into the hospital as soon as possible for life saving treatment.
We are in the process of providing some over-night bed chairs for fathers to stay with their partners, and some adjustable height cots which will be of enormous help to mothers who have had a Caesarian section.
Pat has been trying to stay in touch with all volunteers and workers for the charity via telephone calls. They have received some donations from the local community and have also signed up to Amazon Smile which means that whenever someone shops with Amazon Smile they donate 0.5% of the purchase to Chester Childbirth Appeal.
The Appeal has raised £75,000 and as well as the items mentioned above have also agreed to fund an Aromatherapy course for the labour wards and community midwives, a CTG monitor for the Antenatal Day Unit, 6 paramedic bags to standardise contents for community midwives and a foetal bedside resuscitator amongst other items .