Yesterday a 13-year old boy from Brixton died from the coronavirus. So far, he is the youngest person in the UK to have died from this dreadful disease. He lived just one mile away from me and when I think of the effect on his family and friends, I feel so sad and any normal words just feel inadequate.
The coronavirus crisis is shocking and tragic. It has hit us so hard and worse is still to come.
And yet, even in the face of this human tragedy, so many people, charities and companies are responding positively. Last week over half a million people signed up in just 24 hours to help vulnerable people self-isolating. Also last week the UK came together in a mass applause to thank the NHS and care workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Wise words from Victor Frankl
It brings to mind a quote from Victor Frankl, the Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who was imprisoned in Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War. In his seminal book ‘Man’s search for meaning’ he wrote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” He wrote those words 74 years ago, but they have never felt so relevant. We cannot change this situation, but we can choose how we respond.
Charities responding creatively
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) estimates that UK charities could lose £4 billion as a result of the coronavirus crisis. It also says that many charities are “facing imminent collapse”. And yet, there are so many examples where charities are responding quickly, positively and innovatively. For example, CHAS (Children’s Hospices Across Scotland) have launched the UK’s first virtual children’s hospice to support children with life-shortening conditions and their families during the coronavirus outbreak and beyond. It will offer nursing, medical and pharmacy-related advice over the phone or via video call. They are also providing a storytelling service for children at home.
Another inspiring example comes from Age Exchange, a dementia charity based in Blackheath (South-East London). Because of the coronavirus crisis they have had to close their café and community library, so they are sending ‘reminiscence’ boxes to 150 people instead. Each box contains arts, crafts and quizzes, and is specifically designed to improve the mental health of someone with dementia.
Companies responding creatively
Companies are also responding in extraordinary ways. For example, Psychopomp, a Bristol-based gin distillery, has used some of its alcohol to make hand sanitiser. They have sold the sanitiser to neighbours and members of the public and donated the proceeds to Bristol Children’s Hospital.
Meanwhile Portview, the interior fit-out company based in Belfast, have donated over 2,000 face masks to the Northern Ireland Hospice. This will help keep the hospice’s nurses safe, enabling them to continue to support some of the most vulnerable people in their community.
On a different scale, Morrisons has employed 5,000 colleagues from Marie Curie and CLIC Sargent charity shops. Both charities needed to close their shops due to the coronavirus epidemic, so these staff will now help the supermarket provide food for elderly and vulnerable shoppers and food banks.
Stepping up together
In the midst of this crisis people have never been so ready to make a difference. Charities, companies and individuals are stepping up and there is a wave of doing good spreading across the UK. But so much more is needed.
So we want to challenge you. How can you respond to this situation in an extraordinary way?