Your Covid-19 voluntary sector heroes

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In the first of a new feature, TFN highlights just people in the sector who have been making a difference during lockdown. #NeverMoreNeeded

8th May 2020 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Crisis often brings out the best of the voluntary sector.

As businesses worry about profit, and politicians strategize – charity workers and volunteers have continued to do what they do best, help people.

The initial response from the sector to the pandemic cannot be underestimated. Despite funding worries, offices closing and volunteers and staff having to self-isolate, organisations have embraced the challenges presented by the outbreak.

In the first part of this feature, we highlight just a few of the people - nominated by TFN readers - who are making a difference.

John Loughton

John Loughton has helped a small youth charity lead a movement to ensure people across Edinburgh have access to hot and healthy meals.

Despite his own business Dare2Lead having to stop due to lockdown, the former Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack winner was determined to ensure Scran Academy would not only stay open but lead the way to ensure communities remain well-fed.

He mobilised a group of 30 volunteer chefs, an army of delivery drivers and worked with other organisations to ensure freshly prepared meals can be distributed across the city. Scran Academy has sent out more than 12,500 meals, and is now working with 30 organisations.

“We believe that every single person, no matter how vulnerable they are, should have at least one freshly prepared meal a day,” said John.

“The logistics are very difficult, and there’s arguably no real safe way to deliver the amount of food we are sending out. But we have an extremely brave and dedicated group of volunteers who are determined to help people out and we’re constantly reviewing what we are doing to ensure it is as safe as possible.”

 

Rankin Barr

Rankin Barr is Holyrood hub service leader for homeless charity Streetwork.

Rankin played an integral role in helping the charity to use a hotel in Edinburgh to house those who were sleeping rough when Covid-19 hit.

“Rankin had a key role from the beginning in making this initiative happen,” said Streetwork assistant director of services Jan Williamson. “He played a big part in negotiating the arrangement with the hotel and led on everything involved in setting up the service so that we were in a position to start taking in guests just days later. Within the space of two days the hotel had reached its capacity, with around 80 guests who would otherwise have been sleeping on the streets or using the night shelter in Edinburgh living somewhere safe. 

Rankin has used his creativity, contacts and drive to create a service that meets people's needs, protects their health and enables them to stay safe.  He has worked hard to coordinate partnerships and we now have on-site health services, food provision led by volunteers, and people have access to the items they need to be able to comply with the stay at home instruction.”

Rankin’s commitment to the service saw him choosing to stay on site during the initial weeks to avoid his work being impacted by changes to public transport.

 

Beth and Emily

Two girls from the 1st Tweedbank Guides have demonstrated true community spirit by helping to assemble visors intended for local care workers.

Living up to the Guiding Promise to “be an active citizen” and to “help others”, Beth (13) and Emily (11) have been volunteering at the local Tweedbank resilience group where they put their skills to good use and helped to assemble hundreds of visors.

The girls offered to help the resilience group, which was initially contacted by SBcares with a request to assemble donated visors. These will be distributed by SBCares to five local hubs covering Galashiels, Peebles, Duns, Hawick and Kelso, before they go on to local care homes for staff to use.

 

Suzanne Fernando

Suzanne Fernando has been hosting digital meet ups online with friends, family and fellow veterans on a Facebook group she recently set up called Virtual Veteran Hang Outs.

Her husband Kester said: “Without this many of her fellow veterans would have had no face to face interaction at all these past few weeks, but now many can enjoy getting together for virtual comradeship, military banter and can let Suzanne know if they need anything urgently.”

The virtual hang outs group page is available 24/7 everyday. If anyone would like to join Suzanne and her hundreds of new found friends they can email suzfernando@yahoo.co.uk

 

Jonny Gardner

Jonny Gardner, 44, from Maryhill is a kindness caller volunteer for Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS).

“When I found out I was going to be furloughed, I decided I wanted to get off my bahookie and do something worthwhile with my time,” he said.

“That night, it was the first clap for carers at 8pm. I went out my front door and was totally blown away. Everyone was cheering, clapping, singing and banging pots and pans all to celebrate frontline workers. It was just amazing.

“It was so overwhelming and it gave me an incredible lift seeing everyone coming together to do something so positive. It brought to life just how important it is to feel connected to people right now.

“It made me feel thankful for what I’ve got, and it spurred me on to help others who might need support right now.”

The emotion he felt during that moment prompted Jonny to give his time up to volunteer for the charity’s Kindness Caller service, which is helping people who are stuck in the house due to health reasons stay connected.

He said: “After my training, I had my first call with a lady who lives nearby in Glasgow. She can’t leave the house because of her severe asthma, so she feels a bit stuck right now.

“I’ve really enjoyed our chats over the phone. We have a lot in common and we even realised we used to go to the same clubs in Glasgow a few years back!

“She can’t get shopping in at the moment so I’m hoping to help her with this. I’m more than happy to do any practical tasks and pick up anything she needs, like food or medicine.

“It’s nice to know I can do something to help her, so she doesn’t have to worry about running out of food.”