It’s probably a bit of an understatement to say, ‘what a year it’s been’, but it really has! COVID-19 has brought about so many changes that many of us have never seen in our lifetime; lockdown measures separating us from our loved ones, wearing face coverings and the closure of pretty much every establishment to socialise or enjoy ourselves in. It’s been a tough time for everyone, but perhaps the biggest positive that has come out of these unprecedented times is the sense of unity and togetherness in our country.
Andy Hogarth, Helping Hands CEO, said: “This year has been a huge challenge for all of us, but it has also been a time of coming together and supporting each other to get through the tough times. I’ve seen so many selfless acts within Helping Hands and outside of our organisation, and it’s so humbling to see everyone uniting against this virus. From the Clap for Frontline Workers every Thursday and fundraising efforts by Sir Captain Tom Moore, to those acts of kindness that happen every single day from our amazing carers – it’s just so wonderful to see.
“This year seemed the perfect time to launch Moments of Kindness, a scheme at Helping Hands that recognises when our carers and staff go that extra mile. And it’s happening everywhere, every day! I can’t tell you how proud of everyone I am.”
For some of us, we have seen difficult times like these before – World War I and II being the historical periods that probably stick out more than any other. With this in mind, we want to take a look back at the past year and beyond to celebrate some of the amazing people that truly make Britain great.
Health care heroes
COVID-19 isn’t the first time that we’ve faced a global pandemic. In 1918, just after the end of World War I, the deadly Spanish Influenza broke out in the Western Front, where many soldiers were preparing to return home after a long and hard-fought war. The unsanitary conditions in the trenches were thought to be a major factor in the outbreak, with soldiers bringing the flu back home with them. It killed over 50 million people worldwide, with around 500 million people being infected – around a third of the world’s population at the time.
With so many young men having fallen during the four-year-long war, the care of those suffering with the flu fell to the women, who became known as the unsung heroes of the Spanish Flu. They worked alongside doctors to ventilate rooms, prepare beds and provide the day-to-day care to the many patients in their charge, risking their own lives to do so.
There are clear parallels here between the Spanish Flu and coronavirus; many health care workers have risked their own lives throughout the pandemic to care for those who have been most severely affected by the virus, with many sadly losing their own lives. The British Red Cross has come to the country’s aid during both pandemics, calling out for volunteers and supplying medical equipment to hospitals, similar to how many have made face coverings and protective shields for the NHS during the lockdown.
Who can forget the joyous, colourful rainbows that adorned our streets as we took our regular walks during lockdown or the Thursday night Clap for our Key Workers? It’s these moments and gestures that show us at our best, celebrating the health and frontline workers during these worrying times.
A rainbow made from chalk, designed by Helping Hands customer, Lucy from York.
Carers who continue to care
With any national and global pandemic, we’ve all become very aware that it’s not just the doctors and nurses that are the heroes. After World War II, many families in Europe faced starvation due to the sheer effect of funding a world war had on their country. An organisation called CARE was set up, which then stood for Care Cooperative for American Remittances, whereby care packages were sent to families in urgent need of food, sanitary and medical supplies. Nearly 80 years later, CARE is now a world-wide organisation, which the UK is very much part of. They have played their part in many health epidemics and humanitarian crises and continue to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similarly, the Royal Voluntary Service was created in 1938 to help those in the UK who were affected by air raids during World War II. Originally named the Women’s Voluntary Services for Air Raid Precautions, this organisation aimed to supply people with food, drink, bedding and first aid, as well as assisting in the evacuation of thousands of children to the countryside. The organisation was made up of regular men and women who were willing to give up their time to help others, which is exactly what it does to this day. The coronavirus pandemic saw the organisation recruit over 360,000 volunteers with an estimated 1 million requests supported, consisting of delivering medical supplies to hospitals, collecting food and prescriptions for the vulnerable and calling people who are shielding or alone.
There are so many examples of people who have gone above and beyond during the coronavirus pandemic. Communities came together to create care packages for the elderly and vulnerable, ensuring they have all of the essentials they need if they are unable to leave their home or who are shielding. All of our carers at Helping Hands have continued to care for their customers as they would normally do, but with additional personal protective equipment (PPE). During the height of the first lockdown, some of our carers needed an extra helping hand to get all of the right PPE to them so that they could safely care for our customers. That’s when comedian, Joe Pasquale, stepped in, delivering face masks, aprons, and shields to our carers across Essex and London, to do his bit for the fight against coronavirus.
Joe Pasquale in his Helping Hands uniform.
One of our most memorable moments from 2020 is the wonderful gesture by Simon, a carer from Warwickshire. Knowing that his customer, Andrew, was struggling to get out and about during lockdown, Simon decided to purchase a new vehicle for himself that enabled Andrew and his mobility equipment to be loaded safely inside. This meant that Andrew could enjoy some much-need fresh air, explore his local community and even stop off for a McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home!
Simon’s incredible commitment to his role as a carer has earned him a nomination for our company employee recognition scheme, Moments of Kindness, as well as being nominated as a finalist at the Care Heroes Awards, held by Home Care Insight UK.
Simon and Andrew enjoying an afternoon out in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Bringing the country together
Perhaps the most recognisable movement of this past year has been the efforts made by Captain Sir Tom Moore, who in the run up to his 100th birthday, made it his mission to walk 100 laps of his garden to raise £1,000 for NHS Charities Together. Determined Captain Tom completed his challenge, but managed to raise over £32 million for the NHS, completely surpassing his self-set target of £1,000!
Captain Tom’s selfless act inspired many others to follow in his footsteps. Children across the UK spent their lockdown raising money for those more vulnerable during the pandemic by doing sponsored bike rides, runs and even designing one-off t-shirts.
Although we have just entered a second lockdown and it seems for now that the pandemic is far from over, there have been so many acts of bravery, kindness and compassion from one another that have prevailed. It’s up to us to keep on going and helping one another, so that we can all live in a happy and healthy world. Whether you help out an elderly neighbour with their shopping or if you’re a carer or health worker in the NHS who is on the frontline every day, we can all do our bit and help to come together to overcome this virus once and for all.