My employers at Kingsley Napley have a strong ethos within the firm of supporting fundraising and volunteering and have continued helping charities and the local community during the COVID-19 crisis (see here for detail). My role as an advocate has understandably been affected by the CRISIS, given the lack of hearings taken place, as was my planned Easter break, so with permission of the firm I took some time out to do some volunteering. How did I get on?
1 NHS “responder” volunteer
Like so many others I signed up as a volunteer “responder” to help, if and when I could, those in need during the coronavirus #COVID19 crisis.
The app looks great! I tested the alarm-sounds like an air-raid warning! And waited…
..and waited. I completed my “profile”. I went out and acquired a mask, hand-gel, gloves. I have no symptoms or underlying health conditions. I am DBS checked. I have a car, a bike, live near a hospital, and flexible working hours. 300 hours passed…The app is clever in that you enable the maps so they can pinpoint your location and match you to somebody nearby in need. I live in Central London, and there is plenty in that category! And still I waited…AND THEN… it finally happened! The alerts sounded! 👏
I was cycling at the time (as permitted exercise) and nearly fell off my bike! 🚲 I pulled over, and accepted the call. Details followed…
And then I looked at the address, and the postcode was LS12 …that’s in LEEDS! 😳
I mean don’t get me wrong, I love Leeds. I studied at Leeds Uni and was sad when our annual reunion last month was cancelled due to #COVID19.
But travel 🚂 to Leeds to answer this call would hardly be lockdown compliant!
2 Food bank
Since #coronavirus closed the schools, my 16 year old son (GCSEs cancelled) has been doing some volunteering. So I joined him for a day at the foodbank at “brickworks” Community Centre, Hanley Crouch. To our surprise, Jeremy Corbyn was also volunteering there!
3 Other volunteering
I am grateful to have the opportunity to help out with a local mentoring charity of which I am a trustee -“Bridging the Gap Islington” -which KN have also supported, including a recent grant that allowed us to enable mentors to meet those they are helping “virtually” , and holding our trustee meeting by zoom.
I’ve also been working on the Jack Leslie Campaign – to recognise the achievements of a legendary footballer who 100 years ago should have been the first black footballer to play for England. The aims and objectives:
1 To raise the funding for a statue of Jack Leslie in Plymouth, where he played as a professional footballer for Plymouth Argyle.
2 To promote the story of Jack Leslie, the first black footballer to be selected for England way back in 1925, and to use Jack’s story positively to combat racism in football, supporting the aims of the “Kick It Out” campaign.
4 Pro-bono work
The COVID-19 crisis and the government response and regulations has created a number of challenges for all of us, and injustices for a few. We all understood that funerals had to limit the number of mourners, but Islington Council closed their cemetery (a vast site) to all, including those who used it for their daily walk and to visit loved ones. I was contacted by a grieving parent whose 17 year old son had recently died in tragic circumstances, and was now unable to undertake her visits to tend to his resting place. This interruption to the grieving process was highly traumatic, and I helped take up the case, as reported here , eventually (with the help of Cllr Caroline Russell) persuading the Council to allow the cemetery to reopen with new social distancing measures in place.
I also challenging the bizarre decision of the Council to close fruit and veg stalls, rather than assisting traders to managing social distancing in selling their wares. This time I was able to deploy the assistance of the local MP – having raised the issue with him at the food-bank (see above)
The much-flaunted Responder App was a disappointment and remains so, and appears to have been deployed as part of the Government’s media strategy deploying “we are all in this together” war-time rhetoric. I did enjoy however having the chance to do some voluntary work locally. I have to be honest- it was good for me personally, as I like to keep busy and was struggling to adapt to “lock-down” and having no work. But it also good to help out the incredible voluntary sector, a part of a diverse community that feels like a family, and where others far more worthy than me give their time commitment and resources regularly. It was a humbling experience.