More than half a million Britons answered Matt Hancock’s call to join the NHS army last night – echoing the public response to the Mail’s Hospital Helpforce recruitment drive.
Meet some who rose to the challenge.
FLYING IN TO VOLUNTEER
Stefanie Ridley had been due to spend the next few months jetting around Europe in her job as an air stewardess.
But with all flights grounded for the time being, she has now decided to volunteer instead. Mrs Ridley, 30, signed up to the NHS volunteer scheme straight away on Tuesday night.
She said: ‘I felt a bit useless sitting around at home and just want to do anything I can to help.
Stefanie Ridley (pictured) had been due to spend the next few months jetting around Europe in her job as an air stewardess before the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK
‘I know there are lots of other people like me whose day-to-day jobs have been affected by coronavirus so we might as well put the extra sets of hands to good use.
‘I can drive so will be able to pop to the shops for people, pick up prescriptions and take packages from one hospital to another.’
Mrs Ridley, of Corbridge, Northumberland, works in cabin crew at Newcastle Airport but had her last flight on March 19.
She said: ‘I sent the volunteer link to a lot of my work colleagues and they are also going to sign up. We’re not working or flying so are going to help other people instead.
‘It will help me to stay positive and keep my mind active. We’re all in this together and it makes such a difference for vulnerable people to know they’re not alone. I have signed up to talk to them on the phone or through their doors.’
SERVING BRITAIN AGAIN
Nick Brooker is no stranger to serving his country.
The RAF veteran spent ten years as a communications technician during the Cold War in Germany and in the Falklands.
He is one of the 405,000 people who have signed up to be NHS volunteers in response to the Health Secretary’s plea on Tuesday.
Nick Brooker spent ten years as an RAF communications technician during the Cold War in Germany and in the Falklands
Engineering worker Mr Brooker, of Droitwich, Worcestershire, said: ‘The NHS and emergency services need help to take the pressure off.
‘I feel for folk who are isolated through mobility, age or health and need help with provisions.’
He has volunteered to deliver shopping, supplies or medicine to people in vulnerable groups and self-isolation.
ACTOR’S CARING ROLE
Musical theatre actor Alex O’Reilly is out of work due to coronavirus but is still hoping to keep people entertained.
The 24-year-old signed up as an NHS volunteer so that he can ‘brighten up their days and make them forget about the virus’.
Before the outbreak, the Londoner split his time between performing on stage and teaching dance and drama lessons in schools. But he has been left without work due to closures.
Mr O’Reilly, who is due to be in the UK tour of musical Hairspray in July, said: ‘I love meeting new people and putting a smile on their faces. I’m hoping I’ll be able to help people with childcare because of my experience in schools, and I can teach drama and dance.
‘I am a young, able, fit man and I had so much time to fill. I signed up straight away and will do anything I can to help. I have already volunteered to help neighbours getting any food they need from the shops and want to chat to people to stop them getting lonely.
‘Volunteering will help me to stay sane – they’re helping me as much as I’m helping them. London is so huge and usually no one talks to each other, but this is bringing that sense of community back.’
Musical theatre actor Alex O’Reilly (left) and 18-year-old Maisy Vincent (right) have also volunteered
TEEN WANTS TO HELP
Maisy Vincent, 18, of Falmouth, Cornwall, previously volunteered at a Truro hospital, supporting dementia patients.
She was named Young Volunteer of the Year in the Helpforce awards. The teenager said: ‘Now that school is closed for the foreseeable future and my A-levels have been cancelled, I want to go back to the hospital to help the NHS in its time of need.
‘They are going to find me a new role. I’ll do anything – whatever needs doing. I’m young and fit and really want to help.
‘The one silver lining of the pandemic is that it is bringing back a sense of community that I had heard about but not really experienced before.’
SARAH VINE: When we look back on these extraordinary, terrifying times, we will realise this was our chance to make a difference
When all this is over and the world has returned to some semblance of normality, survivors will broadly fall into two camps.
On the one hand, those who thought only of themselves, selfishly raiding supermarket shelves, stockpiling mountains of food in deep freezers, buying up household essentials to sell on at inflated prices and generally doing everything to safeguard their own derrieres at the expense of the old and the weak.
Those who saw opportunity in other people’s misery, from the boss of Sports Direct who, having dithered about closing his shops, then finally did so only to hike up prices online, to the irresponsible self-publicists and propagandists stirring up fear and panic on social media for their own advancement.
On the other hand, a very different breed of human: Those who stepped up to the plate – and put their backs into fighting the spread of this virus and helping safeguard others more at risk than themselves.
It took less than five minutes to add my name to the list of NHS Volunteer Responders at www.goodsamapp.org (pictured). And I would urge you, dear reader, if you are willing and able, to do the same
It goes without saying that I’m talking about those on the very sharp end of the battle to defeat Covid-19: doctors, nurses, NHS workers.
But also supermarket staff, pharmacists, carers, delivery drivers, community leaders and more. People like my local family-run Italian restaurant, Il Portico, which has been in business since 1967 and which, as soon as the order came to close its doors, switched to delivering food and sanitary items at cost price to vulnerable local residents.
People of all political stripes and persuasions, like the budget food blogger Jack Monroe, who has been working around the clock devising ingenious online recipes for people struggling to get their usual ingredients; like the fitness coach Joe Wicks, leading the nation every morning in online PE lessons; the rugby ace Maxime Mbanda, working 13-hour ambulance shifts.
Jack Monroe is pictured appearing on ‘This Morning’ in January. Monroe has been working around the clock devising ingenious online recipes for people struggling to get their usual ingredients
Countless examples of individuals, groups and businesses pulling together to help others through this crisis. When we look back on these extraordinary, terrifying times, I want to be among that number.
To feel that, in whatever small way, I made a difference and maybe even helped save lives. After all, it’s the least I can do.
Like most of my generation, I am lucky enough to have got to the ripe old age of 53 without experiencing anything like the kinds of sacrifices my grandparents had to suffer.
Rugby ace Maxime Mbanda is working 13-hour ambulance shifts during the coronavirus crisis
Sure, my life has had its ups and downs and challenges, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s been a charmed existence.
I don’t want to just stand by and watch others deal with this nightmare; I want to make myself useful in whatever way I can, whether that be transporting food and medicine or offering guidance and support to people over the phone.
This is our war, our chance to give back. We must grasp it. Which is why the second the Health Secretary Matt Hancock issued a call to arms for 250,000 volunteers to help support NHS staff and services, I signed up straight away.
Fitness coach Joe Wicks, pictured, is leading the nation every morning in online PE lessons
It took less than five minutes to add my name to the list of NHS Volunteer Responders at www.goodsamapp.org. And I would urge you, dear reader, if you are willing and able, to do the same.
Not least because the idea was, in part, inspired by the extraordinary voluntary contribution already made to the NHS via the Daily Mail’s Hospital Helpforce campaign, launched in December 2018.
Backed by, among others, the then prime minister Theresa May and the Archbishop of Canterbury and supported by the Royal College of Nursing and the medical union Unison, the campaign prompted a huge response from readers, who responded in their droves.
Thousands of you pledged support and went on to join your local trusts in voluntary roles, from helping out in minor operations to manning the phones or making tea on the wards.
That campaign was started to help bolster an NHS that was already struggling to meet increasing demand. Who could have imagined that, less than two years on, we would find ourselves facing an even greater challenge?
Every offer of assistance, great or small, helps take the pressure off frontline NHS staff, not only allowing them to do their jobs more efficiently but also – crucially – giving them a much-needed break.
This new call to action hoped to boost numbers to 250,000 – but we have already reached 500,000 and counting.
That’s because, while it is true that there is a nasty element in this country – as in any other – who couldn’t give a fig for anyone apart from themselves, the reality is the majority of Britons are pretty damn decent.
Backed by, among others, the then prime minister Theresa May (pictured) and the Archbishop of Canterbury and supported by the Royal College of Nursing and the medical union Unison, the Daily Mail’s campaign prompted a huge response from readers, who responded in their droves
The idiots get disproportionate attention and airtime precisely because their behaviour is so shocking to the rest of us.
But for every selfish oaf, there are ten times as many sane, humane and intelligent people who understand what’s at stake here.
We are the silent, sensible majority. This is our chance to make a difference.