In our last blog, a selection of our charities told us about how they are adapting to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in our latest post we wanted to shine a light on some more of these amazing charities, as they react to these unprecedented times.
Whether it’s modifying their services to reach people ‘virtually’ or launching new campaigns to raise awareness and visibility, these charities have been working extremely hard to make sure they are there for the people who need them most. In this blog, we hear from Willow, ABF The Soldiers's Charity, Wood Green, Shivia, Horatio’s Garden,Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, City Harvest, Bread and Water for Africa and The Forward Trust.
City Harvest is reacting to the increased demand for food due to the pandemic, saying: “We have scaled up drastically in line with the needs of recipients, delivering to food banks, community groups, hostels, NHS and faith groups who are geared up for social distancing and delivering food parcels to those in need. Our vans have become a symbol of hope for many across London.” Since lockdown alone, City Harvest has rescued over 293.9 tonnes of food, delivered over 683,480 meals and offset over 1,116 tonnes of greenhouses gases. We are rescuing healthy nutritious food and making sure people have fresh food where possible packed with nutrients.
The charity says: “The silver lining of this pandemic gleams, shining a light on the incredible people and organisations who are uniting. We continue to work with the hospitality industry who are cooking meals for us to distribute, as well as working with new collaboratives and companies to ensure food reaches those in need and raise funds to keep our vans rolling.
“The Mayors Fund for London has launched #LondonTogether and we are delivering food to their Kitchen Social hubs. Schools have become hubs for low-income families to access food, and we work with many organisations that are preparing food and care packages for those who would otherwise go without. Here from behind tables lined with food to take away, Ealing Soup Kitchen staff and volunteers can have brief conversations with those collecting food, whilst respecting social distancing. For some this may be the only social contact they have for days.”
As well as delivering fresh food and supplies to community groups who are feeding the vulnerable, homeless and food insecure, City Harvest also delivers to food banks. The manager of a Kensington food bank explains what he sees daily: "I cannot tell you how happy it has made us. Although we are in the midst of this awful crisis, your deliveries have been like Christmas. It has meant that we are struggling less to put together nutritious meals for our most vulnerable. The bulk of our meals go to vulnerable children who will otherwise not be fed. We currently feed 180 children daily, Monday to Friday. We would eventually like to put together weekend care packages for them. We also feed homeless – 100 meals a weekend to vulnerable adults."
These challenging times have seen charities team up with other companies and organisations to adapt their services. With the threat of Coronavirus and many of its beneficiaries facing self-isolation and lockdown due to being most “at risk”, Willow have sadly had to suspend their Special Day service. But that hasn’t stopped them from reaching out to brighten their beneficiaries’ days – Willow has connected with Not Another Bunch of Flowers to deliver special Positivity Packs. We love this idea!
Willow’s Chief Executive Jonathan Aves told us: “A Willow Special Day is often something to look forward to after months and years of hospital appointments and treatment. Our Positivity Packs can’t replace them, but we hope that they can spread a little joy in the midst of lockdown. We’re delighted to be able to work with a great company like Not Another Bunch of Flowers, who really understand what it can be like to live with serious illness. We’re continuing to work hard to make Special Day happen as soon as possible, and we look forward to building this great partnership beyond the lockdown.”
Not Another Bunch of Flowers was founded by Anikka Burton in 2014, after her own frustrations with gifts when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She found that flowers weren’t allowed in many hospitals, and many gifts weren’t suitable for people recovering from chemo or radiotherapy. She founded Not Another Bunch of Flowers to offer a stylish range of gifts suitable for those facing surgery or undergoing treatment. The company hopes to deliver over 300 Positivity Packs to seriously ill young adults across the UK. If you’d like to support Willow, you can do so here.
ABF The Soldier's Charity
Many charities across the world are seeing an increase in demand for their support – ABF told us: “We are seeing an increased need for support with living costs, such as food, rent, utility bill and mortgage arrears to those army families who have had a reduction or loss of earnings. In the last week, we spent over £64,000 awarding 67 grants to support with housing and living expenses to help the Army family during these trying times.”
The charity also stands ready to support other charities who are working with them to alleviate need and support the nation's response to COVID-19, saying: “In the past few weeks we have awarded Forces in the Community a £10,000 grant towards helping veterans and their families manage their wellbeing and find work. As well as awarding Combat Stress a £250,000 grant towards their helpline supporting veterans battling mental illness during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
On the ground, ABF ambassador Andy Reid has been delivering bacon sandwiches as part of the local Veterans Breakfast Club (pictured below), the ABF East Midlands office has been delivering meals to elderly and vulnerable people, and the North East office has been working hard to deliver essential PPE to caregivers in care homes and hospitals.
In India, a country of 1.37 billion people, the spread of COVID-19 could be truly devastating. People are being advised to wear face masks as a means of reducing the risk of infection, but they simply don't have access to them and can hardly afford to buy them. Shivia is supporting these vulnerable people with a mask-making initiative in the villages where they normally distribute chickens for their Poultry Development Services programme. They say: “Members of our field team who live and work within these communities, are re-training our beneficiaries (our women poultry farmers) to make cotton face masks and will then distribute them to thousands of local families in need. These women have lost their livelihoods due to the COVID-19 lockdown but sewing face-masks is giving them a new source of income and hope.”
If you would like to help Shivia to reach their initial target of 25,000 masks, they have a JustGiving page. Each mask is 20p to produce - the materials, the training and the small payment to the farmers. Just £5 could make 25 masks. Find the JustGiving page here.
Wood Green is still here for pets and people – but has adapted its services in response to the pandemic. They say: “At this difficult time, our teams are pulling together to ensure that all of our pets keep on getting the care and love they need. As part of these efforts, we have made adjustments to ensure we always have staff on hand, and a significant number of animals have been put in foster homes. This means the pets get some extra care and comfort, and pressure is reduced on our already overstretched staff. We are keeping a close eye on developments and taking extra precautions to keep our pets, volunteers, employees and the public safe.”
Find out more about their response here: https://woodgreen.org.uk/wood-green-reaction-coronavirus and you can also donate here.
Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity
The COVID-19 pandemic is posing an unprecedented challenge to charities and Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) Children’s Charity is reaching out to supporters, saying: “We need the support of our friends and donors. We appreciate this is a difficult time for all organisations but we need your help now, more than ever before.”
The NHS is under severe strain and GOSH is playing a crucial role in supporting the NHS response. Children have been transferred from hospitals across London to GOSH so space in those hospitals can be freed up to focus on adults with COVID-19. GOSH has increased its intensive care capacity to make sure we have room for the UK’s most seriously ill children as it is needed. Families with a child at GOSH know they are getting the best care, but it's often a time of worry and sleepless nights. Now it's even worse.
GOSH has put many of their usual fundraising events and activities on hold, and say: “Any donations at this time will therefore make an enormous difference and allow us to continue providing vital support to staff, patients and their families in this challenging time and beyond.” View their emergency appeal here, and you can also show your support by taking part in the following fundraising initiatives Spare to share and Geek out for GOSH.
Horatio’s Garden has changed its services in a couple of ways. The gardens are still open for patients and staff to spend time in, following social distancing measures. All structured sessions have been cancelled, but they are running some sessions virtually. They say: “We have tried to ensure that patients who are still in the centres, and patients who have left but were recently engaged in the activities, are able to take part in some sessions that give them something to do and help to positively impact their wellbeing during this difficult time – as well as open up some of these activities to our supporters.” Check out some of their wonderful work below:
- A weekly Zoom poetry session is being run for patients, their friends and families, and volunteers to join in with (private).
- Weekly art sessions online.
- Encouraging everyone (patients, former patients, NHS staff and volunteers included), to grow plants and spend time outside as part of the ‘Grow to Give’ initiative. You can find tips from garden designers and supporters on the charity’s YouTube page.
Bread and Water for Africa
Bread and Water for Africa is continuing its support for communities, saying: “While school closures are a positive step in reducing the spread of the virus, for children in the communities we serve, the meal they receive at school is often the only one they get in a day. No school - no meal! In addition with the added pressure of food prices rising dramatically on the African continent, feeding families is even harder at this time.”
In Freetown, Sierra Leone, the main problem the community is facing is access to water – it is impossible to implement hand-washing without access to clean water. With their partner, GFYA, Bread and Water for Africa is planning to provide water supply for the 300 households in the community, by hiring a water supply truck twice a week to provide 10,000 gallons of water. The community already has a water tank, which was provided with the help of well-wishers during the Ebola crisis, when the community was quarantined. In addition, they’d like to provide each family with tap-equipped plastic buckets and soap to make sure people can wash their hands. Finally, they have identified 100 of the poorest and most vulnerable families, who would require emergency food supply to ensure basic nutrition. They’re aiming to procure and distribute half a bag of rice (25 kg) and condiments which should last each family for one month.
Finally, the school garden will continue to provide fruits and vegetables which will be sold at a low cost to families in the community. The gardeners have already relocated to the school compound so they can keep harvesting without having to go outside.You can support the Bread and Water for Africa’s Coronavirus Emergency Appeal here.
The Forward Trust
The Forward Trust has also responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, and told us the following about its services:
- Prison-based substance misuse services: All prescribing is continuing as normal. One-to-one appointments are being held in line with appropriate social distancing measures. We are working with Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Services (HMPPS) to keep our service delivery levels under review and in accordance with the decisions of Government and Health authorities.
- Community-based substance misuse services: Locations that normally host groups are now closed to protect local communities. During this period, we are helping service users to stay in contact by phone and online through our Forward Connect support group.
- Housing services: Our Resettlement service is still operating. We are providing telephone and online support, as well as assistance to all of our housing clients.
- Family support services: Support groups are not being delivered as a result of Government guidance. However, critical measures have been put into place to ensure our Family Support Team continue operating vital telephone support where possible.
- Employment services: Community contracts staff are maintaining regular contact with learners and clients through telephone and video calls. Our vocational training provision is moving to virtual learning platforms and still engaging new learners. We are still working with employers and apprenticeship providers virtually and planning for future recruitment.
- Supporting our staff: We have followed Government advice to close down our administrative offices and have made arrangements for all staff in these officers to work from home. For our frontline staff who work directly with our service users, we are constantly looking at ways to keep them safe through adapting working practices, including phone appointments and temporarily suspending group work. If government and HMPPS advice is to withdraw staff from the workplace, we will implement this advice promptly.