Our Lockdown Stories

We know that this is a difficult time for all of our member groups, with many of you having to suspend your normal activities, but we would love to know how your group is dealing with the current situation? Are you doing things differently? Are you still able to help in some way, especially if it is different to the way you normally operate?

If your group has a story to share then please email Debbie.baverstock@attend.org.uk. Your story will help to inspire other groups to try an alternative way to raise funds, find volunteers, help frontline staff or the community in the current situation. The articles here show how some groups are changing what they do and how it is making a difference to so many people.

Friends of Milton Keynes Hospital and Community

Sent in by Clare Logan, Volunteer Recruiter and Fundraiser

For many patients at Milton Keynes University Hospital the highlight of the day was the MK Friends ward trolley. The daily trolley, run by our volunteers, offered newspapers, magazines, drinks, and snacks but due to Covid-19 there was no choice but to suspend the service. Our hospital shop remained open but to NHS staff only and we soon found that staff were coming in to buy essential items for patients. it was then decided that MK Friends would launch their online shop with delivery to the hospital wards. Patients, their families, and friends can order items which will be delivered the same day if the order if placed before 11am otherwise it will be the next day. A wide range of products are available, drinks and snacks, something to read, essential toiletries, clothing, even a USB cable, ear plugs or reading glasses. At a time when visiting is restricted or a patient arrives in a hurry without essential items, we have found this service really makes a difference. Orders have been placed from loved ones around the world who are not able to visit but lets the patient know they are thinking of them. Many people have ordered treats for staff to show their appreciation and even random donations to anyone on the wards that needs cheering up.

MK Friends of Milton Keynes Hospital & Community has been raising runds for over 40 years. Our online shop, we believe, is the first of its type in the country and is proving to be a big success. All profits go towards items and equipment for MK Hospital and the surrounding community.

Resources for Recovery

From volunteers assisting the vaccination programme to providing community transport, Unity has continued to provide critical support in the community throughout the pandemic and this includes vital assistance to charities and community groups.
Unity’s voluntary sector support team are there to assist any charities or groups who may be struggling to recover from the impact of the virus, whether this is due to a lack of volunteers, loss of members, a reduction in funding or perhaps a need for free digital support.
The coronavirus has impacted on everyday services too such as lunch clubs, social groups and other early interventions provided by the charity sector.
To aid support for individuals who may not know where to turn, the BIG Lottery funded the development of a new Unity Directory affectionately known as the CHAWD, the ‘Charity Health and Wellbeing Directory’ for Test Valley, as part of a digital inclusion grant of £45,000.
The CHAWD is a fantastic, repository of information on local groups, charities and health and wellbeing services designed to help individuals identify the assistance they may need.
Terry Bishop, Unity Chief Executive said, "So many groups and individuals have suffered as a result of Covid 19 and Unity is working hard to assist in as many ways as possible to make life easier all around.  Whether that is helping groups with funding advice, setting up new groups where a need has been identified or supporting individuals with a directory of services right across the borough to enable people to find local services and activities.  The next step in this process, is to try and engage with groups who have not been in touch with Unity to offer them the opportunity of being a part of this fantastic resource.”Are you a charity or community group in the Test Valley area and if so, would you like to be included in this free online directory?  Or maybe your organisation is struggling and could do with a bit of advice or support.  If so, please contact the Unity voluntary sector support team who are there to provide free assistance.

Check out the brand new CHAWD for yourself by clicking the link below or contact us through the website for further information.           



Dementia Adventure

At the moment, there are about 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. And although there is no cure for it yet, there are ways to reduce the symptoms, slow down its progress, and make people feel better. One thing that is proven to improve the life quality of people with dementia is interacting and being surrounded by nature. Evidence shows that people with dementia who frequently take part in outdoor activity have increased and more sustained levels of well-being and a higher quality of life. Further, a healthy lifestyle that includes regular outdoor activity can significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia in the future. Dementia Adventure is a registered charity based in Essex that exactly focuses on that: their goal is to support people with dementia to get outside, interact and connect with nature and their community, and retain a sense of adventure in their lives. We spoke to Kath Vale, the Head of Communications and Fundraising of the organisation to check in how they experienced the lockdown and what their post-lockdown plans are as things are opening back up.

Dementia is incredibly isolating due to the course of the condition itself. And the government telling people to reduce social contact and stay at home didn’t help with that. For people with dementia, social contact is crucial to slow down the progress of the condition as much as possible. The brain is like a muscle, and social interaction equals exercising, Kath explained.

Dementia Adventure allows the carers to take a break while enjoying some quality time with their loved ones. Some of their projects are supported days out or organised group holidays that allow people to get out of the house with their friends and family, interact with other people, and experience some days off accompanied by experienced staff and volunteers. This way, people with dementia as well as carers can get a break from their everyday life and relax. Sadly, these amazing offers were not possible during lockdown as the social distancing rules imposed by the government could not be ensured to be adhered to. And although it was impossible to offer an in-person replacement for the holidays that were cancelled because of the pandemic, Dementia Adventure still did their best to ensure that people did not feel left behind by offering regular calls and virtual coffee-and-chats Zoom sessions as a “lifeline of human contact.”
In general, many of the offers run by Dementia Adventure were moved into a virtual space during lockdown. The charity offers different educational training classes including dementia skills training sessions, which help carers to get information on the condition and provide them with the necessary knowledge after a diagnosis. By moving these sessions into an online space, they were not only able to keep up the support and educational offer but, due to easier accessibility and the location-independence of the sessions, they also reached more people from all across the UK than with their in-person sessions pre-lockdown. A further project that feeds into this were short films of dementia patients who talk about their experiences with the condition before and during lockdown. Hearing the voices of people with dementia and their stories helped many carers to adjust better after the diagnosis and fostered a higher understanding for the condition.
As a result of the feedback during lockdown, Dementia Adventure developed confidence building sessions. Having been advised to stay inside their own four walls for such a long time, many of the people have lost confidence in their social abilities and are scared that they would not be able to do the things they did before lockdown. Hence, support and encouragement are needed to help them build up their confidence again. These speciality training session help carers to support their loved ones to build back up the confidence to leave the house and to interact with the community and nature.

Many of the clients explained that during lockdown they really enjoyed some time outside. When outside, their dementia seems to disappear. Closely adhering to the mantra of the charity to enjoy nature on the doorstep, one of the clients said that they frequently went into the garden behind their house when they felt an anxiety attack flaring up. One day during lockdown, they just went outside to “have a few tears on my own.” While they were sitting in the grass, they saw a hedgehog. They started observing the spiky animal going about its daily life, “and immediately I was distracted from my anxiety, my stress, my depression.” The anxiety calmed down and they noticed a deep relaxation spreading throughout their body. “I didn’t have dementia. I didn’t have any problems at all. And that’s what nature does for you. It distracts you. It’s beautiful,” they explained. And this is exactly why Dementia Adventure offers these nature and outdoor experiences. “It is all about feeling good in the here and now,” Kath explained. This experience and many more were collected and put into short films to use for educational purposes in training sessions and similar.

Financially, the lockdown was challenging as well. However, moving things into a fully virtual space allowed the charity to save some money. Additionally, “we were also supported by the players of the Peoples Postcode Lottery all throughout lockdown,” Kath explained. In times like these, it is crucial to have a flexible funder who stuck with the organisation throughout the pandemic and offered support when needed. Thanks to these being in place, Dementia Adventure as a charity is now able to quickly adapt and adjust to the lifting of lockdown. For 2021, they have planned smaller group-size holidays to pick their programme back up. Going forward, there are plans for bigger holidays and offers coming in 2022, Kath revealed, all of them focused around experiences in nature.

If you are now curious about how to get involved with Dementia Adventure, there are multiple ways to get in contact with them. The best way would be to fill in the contact form on their website dementiaadventure.org. They are happy to welcome new volunteers from the Essex area for their confidence building programme. Further, they run a fundraising project at the minute, called DA85, challenging people to cover a distance of 85 miles at their own pace – that's 1 mile for 1000 people with dementia in the UK. No matter if running, walking, cycling, swimming, on the back of a horse – it is your choice how you complete the challenge. It is open until the 31st of December 2021, and if you want to take part in the challenge, you can sign up for it here: https://dementiaadventure.co.uk/da85/.


Home From Hospital

Home From Hospital is a registered charity in Birmingham assisting people after an elongated hospital stay. On average, the 50 members of staff and 45 volunteers of the organisation help more than 1300 clients per year to settle back in at home after being discharged. The service, lasting up to six weeks, is available to all Birmingham residents who are at least 18 years old and have been in hospital in the city or elsewhere. Providing these types of service requires face-to-face meetings of volunteers and clients, which put the organisation into a bit of a pickle during COVID. We spoke to Rosalind, a fundraiser for Home From hospital, about their COVID and lockdown experience.

People returning home after being discharged after an elongated hospital stay require different types of help, which are provided by Home From Hospital, for example, assisting during the travel home, going for food shops, providing food parcels on the day of discharge, accompanying to follow up appointments, visiting for a friendly chat, and much more. But the majority of the volunteers are over 65, so they were especially vulnerable. Therefore, the organisation had to face difficult times – while they wanted to ensure that they would provide as much help as possible to people in need, they also had to be very mindful about not putting anyone at risk. Luckily, most services could adapt: one workaround was to conduct most of the initial assessment and the befriending service through the phone. Further, by pre-making food parcels for clients in one location, bulk-buying supplies, and ensuring that the volunteers had to go to the supermarket as little as possible, they could ensure to keep both volunteers as well as clients as safe as possible. “It was a lot of adapting and figuring things out, but it was worth it,” Rosalind says with a smile in her voice.

Another issue they had to face was related to their food shop service: clients usually provide cash for the shop and get the groceries and their change back after. However, this was not feasible with social distancing rules in place; many clients were shielding, so dropping by the bank to get out some cash was another issue. Still, although all services the organisation provides are free of charge, the clients need to pay for their groceries. Luckily there was emergency COVID funding, which Home From Hospital could use to pay for these food shops and no one had to go hungry. Extra funding provided around Christmas even allowed them to hand out free food parcels to people in need. “Many people suddenly found themselves in a difficult position, and we were very pleased to help!”

When we asked if anything out of the ordinary had happened, Rosalind didn’t have to ponder for long: one of the services they introduced quite early into the first lockdown was providing smartphones and tablets as well as teaching people how to use the devices enabling them to stay in touch with their loved ones. This project has been going on for about 12 months by now allowing clients not only to chat to their family and friends but also to see their faces, although being miles apart, reducing loneliness and isolation one device at a time. One of her favourite stories is about a couple from Birmingham, both in their 80s: Right before the first lockdown, the husband’s care needs increased, so he had to go into a nursing home. When the Home From Hospital volunteer met the couple, they hadn’t seen each other in more than 10 months – the longest time they’ve ever spent apart. The tablets allowed them to see and talk to each other again –¬ finally – after missing each other dearly for such a long time. It was a very emotional virtual reunion with many tears of joy. And it’s heart-warming stories like these that are the silver linings in these difficult times.

“It is easy to focus on what you think is important or on what you think you need. But everyone’s situation is different. For some people, nothing changed at all, while others were suddenly very lonely.” The biggest takeaway for Rosalind was that they need to constantly adapt with the client’s needs in mind. By constantly evaluating client feedback, they ensure that their voices are being heard. In the end, it is all about the human connection – between volunteer and client as well as within the team. “We became really one as a team, and I am very proud about the way we adapted and got over issues!”

If you are curious about how to get involved with Home From Hospital, visit their website (http://www.home-from-hospital-care.org.uk) or email them (admin@home-from-hospital-care.org.uk) for more information. They are currently in urgent need of more enthusiastic volunteers who want to make a difference in the community.


Radio Tyneside

One night in the early 1950s in a pub, there were six Newcastle United Fans who had an idea: broadcasting match commentary to the Royal Victoria Infirmary. Easy said and done: on Saturday, the 6th of October 1951, they broadcasted their first show – Radio Tyneside was born. Since 2018, they’ve been broadcasting on 93.6FM to the communities of Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead, promoting health and wellbeing. Today, the hospital and community radio service is a registered charity working with enthusiastic volunteers producing 24 hours of broadcast a day. We spoke to Richard Finch, the station director of Radio Tyneside, about their lockdown experience.

Being based on hospital premises, COVID had a huge influence on them. During the first lockdown, they had to close the studios and start working from home. Luckily, they had the option to buy some equipment like microphones, software and similar to enable the hosts to continue broadcasting from the safety of their own four walls. Although this wasn’t feasible for everyone, they still managed to keep up their scheduled programme.

One of their projects during lockdown was an interview series with people from the community to hear their lockdown experiences, stories, and how they are holding up. Usually interviews at Radio Tyneside are conducted in person, something that was obviously not possible during the lockdown. Still, they continued their series; they just brought it into a virtual space. Services like Zoom, MS Teams, and Skype were a lifesaver for conducting interviews, Richard explained. And the programme was well received: due to the increased patient numbers in the COVID wards, the listeners numbers doubled! Song requests and well wishings cheered the patients up and made the recovery more pleasant for them.

Luckily, the volunteers were able to return to the studio recently, even though one at a time. Now that lockdown is easing and things are opening back up again, they hope that they can soon be all back in. “We are proud that we could respond very quickly to what was a very difficult situation, everybody chipped in, and we were able to keep things running very smoothly,” Richard explained proudly. The whole experience showed them that no matter what the issue is, if they work together as a team, they can overcome it.

If you are now interested in how to get in contact with them, check out their website https://www.radiotyneside.co.uk/. At the moment, because of the still fluid situation, they aren’t able to take on new volunteers. However, they are planning to pick that up again over summer, so keep an eye on their website and get in touch!


The League of Friends of the Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital

Since 1961, the League of Friends of the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Shropshire, a charming area in the English countryside close to the north Welsh border, have been providing essential support to patients, relatives, and staff through 17 different volunteer services including funding equipment and supporting wellbeing but also running a store, a coffee shop, and even a post office on the hospital premises. With a staff of about 400 people, they facilitated different fundraising events including jumbo sales and skydiving, as well as helping out at the hospital front desk with Covid checks and befriending and supporting patients who feel lonely. We spoke to Victoria Sugden, the Charity Director of the League of Friends of the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital about their Covid experience.“In the beginning of the pandemic, there was so much insecurity,” Victoria explains. Being a charity that is located on hospital premises and with all the government restrictions in place, the League of Friends had  to face dramatic changes. And with many of their volunteers being over 60, they had to act quickly: the hospital management was fast to adapt and very decisive about ensuring everyone’s safety. But that sadly meant that people had to refrain from coming in. “It broke my heart to send all the volunteers home!” For many volunteers of the League of Friends, it is more than a job: most volunteers found company and comfort in their work with the League of Friends after, for example, losing a loved one. Seeing them go home and going back into loneliness and isolation was devastating. The coffee shop was closed and staff was put on furlough, just the post office remained open - a silver lining that ensured that there will be better times again.

And not only from a people point of view this was a difficult situation: with closing down the coffee shop the fundraising also took a hit as much money came indeed from the services they are running on hospital premises. However, things are getting better again! Volunteers of the League of Friends were able to help out at the vaccination centre and delivered more than 55,000 vaccines! And luckily, by now they were able to reopen the coffee shop and put safety measures in place, such as glass screens, to protect the volunteers as much as possible. And although they could only get back a limited number of people inside the hospital, this is a big win for the organisation already.

“We just try to keep nice things happening to keep peoples’ morale going. But there is a fatigue now, people just want to go back to normality,” Victoria states. And fortunately, they also received much support from outside: local Indian restaurants donated curries for the staff, Starbucks donated coffee for the vaccination centre, and even the locals got involved by sending good luck messages to all the staff and a local sewer created a peacock shaped mural out of 250 hand prints of staff members, and much more! Getting all this support made them feel incredibly grateful: “Thank you to everyone who supported us. We have an amazing community and got great support from the hospital, which was wonderful!”

The next big project is to redo the garden for the pediatric ward to make it more accessible for wheelchairs so that the patients can enjoy some time outside in the sunshine. Right before the pandemic, they managed to update the garden of the spinal ward, and it was a blessing during the last couple of months, especially for the long-stay patients, as it allowed them to get some fresh air despite government restrictions.
If you now want to get involved with the League of Friends of the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Shropshire, go to their website https://www.friendsrjah.org.uk/. They are always looking for volunteers and help with fundraising!


English Schools' Orchestra

Since 1994, the English Schools’ Orchestra has been able to offer their annual autumn Orchestra Course to talented young musicians between 13 and 18 years of age from across the UK.   This includes an intensive orchestra course as well as a concert in a national venue on the last afternoon of the programme. However, 2020 was different: “We were all disappointed that it didn’t work out last year. In fact, this was the first time we had ever had to cancel it since the Orchestra was founded,” Ellen Crann told us. Ellen is the Recruitment and Marketing Manager of the Orchestra and told us a little bit more about how they experienced the situation during lockdown. 

Every year, the English Schools’ Orchestra invites experienced music students who reached a certain standard to come together with peers during a one-week, high-demanding orchestra course. The programme is extremely challenging but also offers great opportunities for the young musicians to develop and refine their craft.

During the first weeks of lockdown and restrictions, they were still hopeful that the orchestra course could take place, even if on a reduced level. At first, they decided to postpone it until February – the course usually takes place in October – and were very keen to follow through with it. But in the end, the government rules were just too restrictive, so it was not feasible and moving the orchestra programme to a virtual space would just not have been the same. So they decided, heavy-heartedly, to rather call it off than compromise on the standard they are known for. “Online is just not how the Orchestra operates. The music programme is extremely challenging, and it’s just not the same doing it virtually,” Ellen elaborated.

Keeping in contact with the students as well as the parents was the most important thing for the Orchestra during these challenging times. Instead of focusing on the negative, they tried to highlight the silver linings by trying to find alternatives. This open and honest communication was highly praised by the parents and shaped an amazing bond between the Orchestra and the participants. For 2021, 60% of last year’s participants have already confirmed to come back. One thing the Orchestra was especially proud of was that they were able to secure Jess Gillam, a world-renowned saxophonist, with whom the music students would have been able to perform in the 2020 concert. Luckily, Jess confirmed to be there for 2021 as well. “It is really nice to see the standard of young musicians we have today and to see that people are absolutely eager to come back this year!” Ellen said. They will try to do anything possible to make it happen in 2021, to offer students something they can look forward to after everything that happened in 2020, she assured.

If you are now curious about how to get involved or even want to sign up as a participant, check out their website! They still have some student placements available for the 2021 programme as well as vacancies in their new Mentor Scheme for final-year and graduate students so feel free to get in


The Friends of Cedar House

The last year was challenging for all of us: social distancing, not being able to leave the house, and working from home made us face hurdles we’ve never even thought would be an issue at any time of our lives. Things we took for granted were suddenly stripped away from us. Life was turned upside down.

At some point during the pandemic, the situation in care homes across the UK moved into the centre of attention: numerous news outlets spoke about our elderly growing lonely due to the restrictions in place that inhibited families to see their beloved grandparents. Nurses and caretakers worked incredible hours not being able to leave the care home for days on end to ensure that the care home residents were as protected from the virus as possible. A lack of human interaction, stressed and overworked caretakers, and an overwhelming feeling of being left alone were the consequences. And yet, one thing that was rarely mentioned was the shortage of everyday essentials like toiletries many care home residents encountered. As a matter of fact, most elderly living in retirement homes rely on their family and friends to bring them things like shampoo, soap, toothpaste, etc., during visits. And with social distancing rules in place, this wasn’t possible at all.

In the midst of this strenuous situation, volunteers stepped up to provide some comfort for the care home residents by organising care packages; amongst them the Crown Church in Uxbridge, which arranged three generous toiletry donations for the Cedar House Care Home during the lockdowns. We spoke with Dan Smith, one of the pastors of the Crown Church, who was involved in the donation process.

The Crown Church was approached through email asking for a donation for the Cedar House Care Home, as the residents ran out of everyday essentials like toiletries. With many local shops being closed down due to Covid-19 as well as many residents not having the funds to pay for things like these, the care home was in desperate need of help. Since his Grandad lives in a retirement home himself, Dan is well aware of the things that went on behind the closed care home doors during the lockdown. So when he heard about the issues at the Cedar House, he knew he had to do something about it: “It was a simple call for help and a simple response.” Although there was no prior connection between the Crown Church and the Cedar House, naturally, they were happy to help. “We were well aware that there would be plenty of needs in the borough, so we asked the Crown Church community for some spare money for donations.” Due to this foresight, they were able to move quickly and help the care home out. Together with two volunteers, Dan put together a care package for the residents, including shampoos, shower gels, toothpaste, and many more everyday essentials. For the first two donations, one of the volunteers took the package to the care home, dropped it at their entry, and left immediately. It was then picked up by a care worker and brought inside—completely social distancing friendly.

Up to today, the Crown Church facilitated three toiletries care packages for the Cedar House Care Home residents. For the third donation, the Crown Church changed its approach: an Amazon order was placed and directly delivered to the care home, making the process even safer and more convenient for everyone involved.

This shows that something very simple can already make a difference—no matter if big or small—for many lives. “It really only takes one request, and people are willing to do it. Churches are always willing to do what they can to help, especially in extraordinary times like this!”


The Friends of Cedar House

Although the coronavirus pandemic has impacted us all, our care homes have unfortunately never been quieter. Strict social distancing guidelines have meant that, although staff have been able to continue their work as normal, kind and generous volunteers like Jean have been unable to give their time to care homes and put a smile on the face of the residents as they normally would.

For many volunteers like Jean, the time they spend at care homes has a hugely positive impact not only on residents but on themselves. Jean began volunteering many years ago in homes in the 1990s after her mother moved to a nursing home. The move inspired to help the residents of care homes in whatever way she could, namely injecting some fun and joy into their days through regular visits. For the families of many residents, Jean is the first port-of-call to soothe their worries about their loved one making the life-changing move to live in a care home. As Jean explains, ‘you cannot look after your loved one at home like they can do 24/7 in a car home. I explain that I had to put my mum in a care home - after you’ve got over the initial shock, you’ll realise that that’s the best thing you could have done. You can still go and visit them and if you’re able to you can take them out’. Having a friendly face like Jean explain how well looked after residents in care homes are certainly goes a long way in dissuading these very common worries.

Later on in life Jean’s partners Alzheimer's worsened, and he sadly had to move to Cedar House full time. Now with an even stronger connection to care homes, Jean continued to be passionate in making the care home a happy and vibrant place and leading her to kindly volunteer her time for not just her husband, but all the residents at Cedar House. Jean makes sure that those who unfortunately don’t have relatives or friends to visit them never feel alone. She loves talking to the residents, in her own words ‘making a fuss of them’, and making the residents feel special and valued, something which in turn adds value to Jean’s own life. As she says, ‘as soon as they see me their face lights up, That’s the payment for what you do’.

Along with the rest of the nation, Jean has been unfortunately unable to maintain her usual routine during lockdown. Outside of this time there’d be an array of activities she’d be throwing herself in at Cedar House, from a risky bet on the Grand National to celebrating raffles wins - ‘before lockdown we’d have entertainment and Easter bonnet competitions, it just makes life more normal and fun’. Jean can’t wait to get herself back in Cedar Wood house doing the volunteering that she, and the residents, love.

The future and the re-opening of Cedar House for volunteers and visitors is looking positive. Last year, Jean managed to raise a huge three thousand pounds for the home. Along with four other trustees who volunteer for another residential home, Jean managed to secure enough funds for a huge summer house for Cedar House, a place where residents can relax and enjoy some much-needed entertainment as the weather gets warmer. Jean even generously raised funds to support Cedar House at her husband's funeral, showing how much the care home means to her and her constant unwavering support for the care home. As Jean explains, ‘I haven’t been able to go since March, I just want to get my feet back under the table!’.

Both residents and volunteers rely on their relationship as a chance to connect, have fun and spend time together. As Jean explains, ‘I feel that I’m missing out on something as well as them’.  Despite a turbulent year for volunteers and the roles they play, there’s been a lot of hope and we are looking forward to seeing residents back socializing and volunteers re-introduced to their roles. This is sure to put a smile on everyone’s face!


The Guild of the Royal Hospital of St Bartholomew

Compiled by the Chairman and Shop Manager and sent in By Hilary Tarr (Trustee)

As one of the original hospital friends’ organisations, the Guild of St Barts has seen so many times of national and world crisis that it has learned to take challenging times in its stride.  That said, we have experienced real loss and trauma this time, losing one of our most beloved and inspiring volunteers.

Despite this, the Guild Shop, following safety protocols extremely carefully, has been proud to support St Bartholomew’s Hospital staff and patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some of our volunteers understandably decided to isolate at home, we have still been able to keep the shop open every weekday and regularly receive thanks for keeping our services available. Sadly, a ward shop trolley service we provide had to be suspended due to infection control requirements but we hope to have that service running again at some point in 2021. Our achievements were recognised during a lovely phone call from our Patron, HRH The Duke of Gloucester, who spoke for some time with a few of our volunteers after they had finished a shift in the shop.

In addition to keeping our shop service running, the Guild was happily able to provide a donation of £4,000 in 50% cold drink discounts to our amazing NHS staff and support workers as a gesture of recognition and thanks for all of their hard work and dedication.

Business in our online souvenir store was suspended from the first lockdown until early September 2020, but remained open during the second lockdown for the sale of Guild calendars and Christmas cards which saw most encouraging sales.  We hope to fully open the store in spring 2021.

Also at Christmas, the Guild funded a splendid Christmas tree erected in the atrium of the Hospital’s King George V Building which delighted and cheered both staff and clinic users.  The Guild’s annual Christmas Concert fundraising event successfully moved on-line with the assistance of our faithful and talented student participants from Barts and The London Music Society.  It was gratifying to learn that the event reached more attendees than would have been the case if held in-person.

The Guild’s grant-giving activity slowed to a trickle in the spring of 2020, in large part because attendance at conferences, courses and other gathering events was not possible.  However, we were very glad to support staff by contributing to the cost of an art and wellbeing initiative: Coping through Connection and Creativity, organised by the Lead Art Psychotherapist for St Bartholomew's Hospital.  Most positive feedback was received from staff who benefitted from an outlet for expression and relief of stress.  An exhibition of artwork, photography and modelling was made available for all staff to view.  Since the end of last summer, the Guild has been able to award an increased number of grants, including for equipment for therapies and other benefits for patients and staff.

So, all in all, this time of loss and challenge has helped us to remember who we are: a group of concerned and active citizens, looking for practical ways to help, and cherishing one another in the process.  


Chester Childbirth Appeal

Provided by Patricia Daniels

Currently, like all other charities, we have no means of fundraising, none of our classical music concerts and no fundraising events. Our Comfort Zone area has had to be taken over to be used for Covid-19 related medical use. This was an area that gave tranquility and provided peace and respite away from the clinical areas for patients' relatives and hard-working NHS staff. They could always depend on the Comfort Zone for obtaining good nutritious food, served by smiling, attentive staff and volunteers.

Any profit made by the Comfort Zone shop and cafe is a bonus as it is used to purchase items that NHS staff in the Women and Children's Unit need but cannot afford so we feel very proud of our work. Next year will see our 30th anniversary and I am proud that with the dedicated support of our committee, volunteers and patrons we have raised over £2 million to aid the NHS staff in their endeavours to provide much needed items for the mothers and their babies. However, especially without the Comfort Zone and any fundraising abilities we are looking for alternative means of support. One of the ways we are doing this is by being part of AmazonSmile. This gives the charity 0.5% of the net purchase price for anyone shopping with Amazon and mentioning the Charity. 

We have received generous donations from Waitrose - £660, a microwave from Tesco for our Lavender Suite and a television provided by Morrisons for the Antenatal Day Unit..

We are also in the process of providing the following items 

  • A ring-fenced £75,000 to fund the Transitional Care Unit, where the parents of premature babies can gain confidence in their ability to care for their child before taking them home. This magnificent sum was raised primarily by local organisations Christleton Wednesday Club and Hope Farm Methodist Church after we visited them to display the plans, costings and need for such an area, alongside fantastic donations from many other generous people.
  • 4 overnight chair-beds for our post-natal ward and bereavement unit
  • Prams and Cots Galore donated a moses basket and stand and I have donated a baby bath and stand for our Lavender Suite
  • 3 adjustable height cots
  • A Draeger Bilirubinometer for use by the community midwives which identifies dangerous levels of jaundice enabling them to transfer the affected baby to hospital without delay
  • A CTG monitor  and a trolley for the Ante-natal Day Unit
  • 6 paramedic bags for community midwives
  • a foetal bedside resuscitator

Whatever lies ahead, I have every faith in our committee, trustees and volunteers to ensure the charity will continue to be successful and we look forward to happier, healthier times this year.


League of Friends of Alnwick Hospital

Anne Harper, Chair of the League kindly sent us the following update:

Like all other voluntary organisations trying to raise funds is a non starter, we would normally hold our annual Coffee Morning and also a  supermarket  Bag Pac.  We also used to  receive donations and monies raised by various fund raising groups.    However, we were fortunate enough to have the Captain of Foxton Golf Club ask if he could have the League of Friends as his Charity for the year 2019/20, of course we all agreed  The final total we received was £1620.00 which was a pleasant boost to our funds.  

Unfortunately we had to close our Hospital Shop  in March and have not opened it since,  we could not offer our trolley service  around the ward which we all enjoyed - meeting and chatting to the patients,  but  health issues come first

We normally hold meetings twice a year, however, this has not happened this year. I keep in touch with our members by  telephone and  email , sending them Hospital updates and any requests that we receive from Matron for equipment.   All our Members cannot wait to resume normal duties -   but who knows when this will happen?   We have an excellent group of Members, I must say last Christmas we organised a' Get Together' at one of our local Hotels, it was such a lovely happy  atmosphere when Members  were able to meet up with  each other in different surroundings.

Every year we present the first baby born at Hillcrest Maternity Home, attached to the hospital, with a commemorative plate, unfortunately,  the presentation to this year's baby, due to take place in March, had to be cancelled.  The presentation is made by our President, Her Grace The Duchess of Northumberland , this will take place sometime!!!!

We are so fortunate in Alnwick to have such a lovely friendly  Community Hospital, all departments are now open.

Friends of Eastbourne Hospital

The following success story was sent in by Sue Duffell, secretary:

At the beginning of April the Friends were asked if they would be able to help the hard working staff at the Eastbourne DGH with some ‘comforts’ to make their lives a little more pleasant during this difficult time. Of course, we were delighted to be able to help and immediately launched the appeal via Virgin Money Giving. The local community did not let us down, and over £43,000 was raised. Alongside the many donations from members and the public there were many individual local fundraising events, including online quizzes, cake sales sponsored walks and fitness sessions, even the auction of a share of a race horse.

With much help from the team in the Friends shop, and the shop suppliers, we were quickly able to start sourcing things from peanuts to cold drinks, fresh fruit, sweet and savoury snacks , hand and face creams , lip balms and many other items that were greatly appreciated by the staff. A distribution hub was set up within the hospital which opened at certain times during the week where members of each team were able to come and collect (at a safe distance) bags of goodies to be shared amongst their teams. This was for all staff that were working so hard at this time, not just the doctors and nurses.

In addition to that, as wards became separated into Covid and non-Covid areas, new staff rest rooms were created and from money donated to the appeal we were able to provide fridges, microwaves, kettles, toasters and coffee machines. For the doctors’ mess we provided some camp beds, reclining chairs and throws to enable them to get some well earned rest.

We were pleased to supply birthday cards and boxes of chocolates for any staff that had birthdays during this time. As time went by the needs of the staff started to change and we were able to respond to any new requests that come in.
In the long term, when the emergency is happily resolved, we have assured everyone that any remaining funds will be returned to the restricted fund that we have always maintained specifically for the benefit of Eastbourne DGH staff.  Any money raised will therefore be for the benefit of our staff whether in the course of the pandemic or not.

Friends of the Hospital of St Cross

A poignant project chronicling lockdown life in a Warwickshire town is continuing to raise vital funds for dedicated hospital supporters:

Rugby: My Town In Lockdown features moving photographs and emotional testimonies of the town's residents living under the harsh COVID-19 restrictions earlier this year. Devised and compiled by local freelance professional photographer Jamie Gray, the book has already raised hundreds of pounds for the Friends of the Hospital of St Cross.

Mr Gray, a lifelong resident in the town who thought of the project while walking through the deserted Rugby streets as the pandemic initially took hold, said the book had been a true labour of love.

"Early on in lockdown I struggled to find anything worthwhile to do," Mr Gray said.  "I couldn't work from home and had little work coming in. Like a lot of people, my life had been turned upside down.  It struck me that although this was a terrible time for Rugby and its wonderful residents, the story of how we coped during this surreal period needed to be captured and told. It's a story of Rugby, its residents and businesses and how they have been challenged by the nationwide lockdown, but also how they overcame that challenge".

The 32-page book, which costs £10, includes several thoughts from Rugby residents living with lockdown, as well as other thought-provoking images of the town. Rugby Borough Council supported the project, helping Mr Gray meet people in the town and providing access to shielding hubs and the Rugby Foodbank.

A 20% slice of profits from each sale of the book was donated to the long-running Friends of St Cross charity, which raises money in order to donate equipment to the town's hospital and community service. A corporate photographer by trade, Mr Gray said his experiences working as a former photographer with the town's Rugby Advertiser newspaper for several years had further spurred his enthusiasm.

 "I've been photographing the Rugby community for several years, and although I now focus on photographing businesses around the country, I've never lost the desire to represent my local area," Mr Gray said. "The Friends of St Cross embody everything that's great about Rugby - wonderful people uniting for a wonderful reason. That's why I wanted to help them how I could. I thank everyone who supported me. Hopefully this is a lasting document of how we were separated during lockdown but how in many ways we were all united."

The book, which has so far raised £230, has been stocked by several local shops including the Revel Bakery, Inside 22, Rugby School Enterprises, The Merchant's Inn and Rugby Cycle Repairs. 

Copies are also still available at the town's Hunt's Bookshop and the Rugby Visitor Centre, as well as via their respective Facebook pages.

Willy Goldschmidt, Chairman of The Friends of St Cross, said the book, which is also available to order via www.jamiegrayphotography.co.uk is a wonderful gesture.

“This donation will be put towards the Friends Sapphire Anniversary Appeal which is celebrating 65 years since the formation of the charity and aims to raise £65,000. This year the charity has committed £200,000 towards the project which will bring Chemotherapy Services to the hospital.  We believe that if everyone in Rugby, who knows someone who has been affected by cancer, donates £1 we will beat our target! We look forward to hearing of more novel ways in which Rugbeians plan to raise money for the Appeal!”

Chester Childbirth Appeal

Pat Daniels has kindly sent in the following update:

We have been unable to gain access to our office and have no means of organising any fundraising such as concerts or combined events with other local charities. However we have been able to fund some much needed items for the mothers, babies and children. The midwives have appreciated this help from us.

In October 2019, Morrisons’ Head Office in Bradford sent us a cheque for £14,000 with the express purpose of funding some billrubinometers. We had already been able to provide one of these in 2019, and this generous gift enabled us to supply a further three. A Billrubinometer, carried by the district midwife enables her to check the baby’s level of jaundice. It enables the midwife to ascertain the degree of jaundice and to get a baby with dangerous levels into the hospital as soon as possible for life saving treatment.

We are in the process of providing some over-night bed chairs for fathers to stay with their partners, and some adjustable height cots which will be of enormous help to mothers who have had a Caesarian section.

Pat has been trying to stay in touch with all volunteers and workers for the charity via telephone calls. They have received some donations from the local community and have also signed up to Amazon Smile which means that whenever someone shops with Amazon Smile they donate 0.5% of the purchase to Chester Childbirth Appeal.

The Appeal has raised £75,000 and as well as the items mentioned above have also agreed to fund an Aromatherapy course for the labour wards and community midwives, a CTG monitor for the Antenatal Day Unit, 6 paramedic bags to standardise contents for community midwives and a foetal bedside resuscitator amongst other items .