Britain’s beacons of hope

The British public has shown that even something as simple as a skipping rope can be a symbol of support. Each week we document them in The Big Issue

Since the beginning of lockdown an estimated 43 million people across the UK have gone out of their way to help someone else through the Covid-19 crisis. So says the British Red Cross, who used the Piccadilly Circus billboard to thank all those who didn’t forget their compassion despite times being tough for most of us.

That marks tens of millions of people doing a weekly shop for their elderly neighbour; others setting mean physical challenges for themselves to attract donations for frontline workers; and more recognising that the markers of poverty there before the crisis haven’t gone away and are only trapping more families in financial hardship.

Their work is vital as the country navigates the pandemic. Here we draw your attention to a few.

  • Charity St Giles Trust has been able to provide food to 550 people in need thanks to generous donations from pub retailer Greene King and logistics company Kuehne + Nagel plus help from Camberwell social enterprise and caterers Brewbird. Lockdown is particularly hard on St Giles clients with many recently pushed out of work and struggling to keep up with their bills or afford basic essentials, and social distancing presents real challenges for those with mental health difficulties.
  • North East artist Chris Fielder launched artfeedUK, a project helping creatives earn some money through the sale of their work while also putting much-needed cash towards foodbanks as they face bigger demand than ever. Any artists of any medium can get involved simply by posting work for sale on their Instagram profiles, tagging @artfeedUK and including the hashtag #artfeedUK, and committing to donating a quarter of proceeds to their local foodbank.
  • Children who are vulnerable and isolated are less likely to have the space or the resources to stay as active as their better-off peers, especially at a time as difficult as this lockdown. That’s why the Active Partnership for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear put cash forward for 4,200 sets of equipment to be given out across the council areas (Northumberland, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland). The packs will contain bean bags, skipping ropes, soft balls and racquets so families can play indoor and outdoor games. Councillor Veronica Dunn, Newcastle City Council cabinet member for Education and Skills, said it would be a huge benefit to disadvantaged kids in the area. She added: “For lots of children in our city, this lockdown will be incredibly difficult on both their physical and mental wellbeing and sport and physical activity is so important for helping them to keep occupied and look after themselves.”

  • Hartlepool 13-year-old Theo Woods completed a 12-hour clap for the NHS and raised more than £7,500 in the process. After the weekly Thursday clap gave him the idea, Theo decided to go further to help raise cash for key workers. Starting at 8am and continuing until 8pm, he wore gloves to protect his hands during the clap and was joined by his younger sister Nancy for around ten hours. The children easily blew their £400 target out the water and saw support from friends, who made tshirts for the occasion, neighbours who made banners expressing their support and the fire brigade who stopped to cheer them on when they passed.
  • Union bosses warned against mixed messages for workers when Boris Johnson said some should be encouraged to head to work despite the coronavirus risk. It sparked a wave of goodwill across social media, with thousands offering to pay for someone else to join a trade union if they couldn’t afford it so they might have some protection in the uncertain months ahead – not least Cardiff indie band Los Campesinos!, who tweeted: “UK followers: if you would like to join your profession’s union but do not have the spare cash to do so at this time, please DM us and we will sub you the first month’s fees.”
  • How do 3,000 pull ups, 6,000 push ups, 9,000 squats and 60 miles ran sound to you? Those figures sum up the month of April for 25-year-old James Kibler, who decided to take on the Murph workout challenge for 30 consecutive days to raise money for the NHS. The Northumberland man more than doubled his initial fundraising target amassing more than £2,000 in donations to go to NHS trust charities across the country and get food packages, toiletries for on-shift and mental health support to frontline healthcare workers as they face the pandemic head-on. The cross-fit challenges consists of a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 399 air-squates and another one-mile run – daily – and Kibler did it all wearing a 10kg weighted vest. He said he was struggling to find motivation to train while in lockdown, and wanted to create a challenge that would get him moving and help hard-working NHS staff at the same time.

These are just a few of the good people doing good – you can explore more stories of positivity as part of our Covid-19 coverage.