The stories are really what make the pictures interesting. Everyone I’ve photographed is helping out the NHS in one way or another, but I found community groups, or mutual aid networks, are much more active on the ground. I’m interested by the comparative effectiveness of the mutual aid structure v the lumbering official NHS volunteer scheme. Under that scheme, people are referred for help by their GPs. In some cases, volunteers have called the person “in need” and they have no idea why they are being contacted. Mutual aid networks, in comparison, work almost street by street, with most doors have had a flyer offering help pushed through the letterbox. These networks are also not hamstrung by concerns about data protection and privacy regulations or worries about insurance.
Nigel Andall runs the North London Community Consortium. It usually focuses on social action and working with young people, but has switched its energies to providing support for local people in need. The ambulance is usually a TV prop, but the NLCC is using it to collect bulk donations of food.
The community response to the virus has been very good. My concern is that after this we must continue to work together and not in isolation
Sister and brother volunteers Cordelia, 14, and Cameron, 12, help out at the AFC Wimbledon food redistribution centre, set up by the Dons Local Action Group, delivering meals to St George’s hospital in Tooting, London.
My dad made me come, but it’s nice to help so many people and no one judges you for being 14. I don’t think I realised how many people can’t leave their house. Even some of my school friends who live with their grandparents can’t leave
Ektor Rodriguez is a 45-year-old art technician from northern Spain. He’s volunteered to deliver to people in need using his Harley Davidson motorbike. “I’ve been attending vulnerable people in my local mutual aid group surprisingly more often than through the NHS volunteering scheme,” he says. “The speed in which this community group was organised was amazing.”
I’ve got my children in Spain and it’s terribly hard to be far from them, even though my community has offered me help and information. In Spain things are very strict compare to here. It doesn’t look like the government trusts its people. I’m happy here
Xavier Wiggins is coordinating the AFC Wimbledon food redistribution effort. The centre distributes 1,500 food parcels weekly as well as more than 300 hot meals a day, and collects food donations from customers queuing at local supermarkets. It receives referrals from police and local charities, and provides food to St George’s, Kingston, St Helier, Marsden and Sutton hospitals, as well as nursing homes, domestic abuse shelters and refugee centres.
At the beginning of the year AFC Wimbledon, which is a fan-owned club, had to raise £5.4m to retain fan control. We finished fundraising just as the coronavirus hit, so we were able to quickly switch from fund raising to this
Sister and brother Imogen, 29 and Alex, 33, both volunteered for the NHS scheme but only Alex was accepted. He usually works as a carpenter and runs a “woodwork for wellbeing” workshop for older men in east London.
The NHS programme is a great idea but the mutual aid network seems to be a lot more successful in getting help to people who need it immediately
Volunteers Marc, Courtney and Tokunbo chop mangos, and other fruit and vegetables on a table tennis table in a repurposed brewery in Tottenham, north London, now used as a food redistribution centre. The volunteers provide food boxes for local people who are self-isolating and cook meals for NHS workers at North Middlesex hospital.
Kit Esuruoso, 26, is an actor in musical theatre. He should have been performing in West Side Story at the Royal Exchange in Manchester but the run was cancelled because of the coronavirus. He signed up for the NHS volunteer programme to help with transport.
With the NHS under such pressure and people struggling to cope, I want to help. Just sitting at home doing nothing seems wrong while others are under so much pressure and stress
Antonella Rossi is an Italian tarot card reader who has been living in London for over 20 years. She has signed up to be an NHS volunteer phone responder and hopes to keep people company who are self-isolating.
I’ve had difficult moments in my life so it’s nice to be able to help out people who are finding it difficult at the moment
Chef Richard Brown produces 300 meals a day for NHS workers from the kitchen of the Old Wimbledonians rugby club, south-west London, using donated food. “When the virus hit we had a freezer full of food and I wondered if we could turn it into meals for local vulnerable people,” he says. “Now we’re providing meals to local hospitals.”
A hospital in Epsom is now an acute Covid care centre. Medical staff are staying at a Holiday Inn but of course there’s no staff in the kitchen and you can’t eat cardboard pizzas from Dominos forever
Volunteer Sam Palmer 23, is a furloughed broadcast engineer . He is helping to collect and deliver food and equipment in his van, which he normally uses for work and to sleep in at festivals.
I just showed up at a donation point and asked if there was anything I could do to help. I have a van and thought I could help. I think I’ve already had the virus so the risk is low
Volunteer Kel Ross, a driving instructor, helps at a food redistribution centre in Tottenham, north London.
I’d say I’ve met some perfect people in an imperfect situation. Everyday feels like the first day but we’re making it happen
Jon Cook, who is retired, and his daughter Laura, 23 and a recent graduate, help out at the AFC Wimbledon food redistribution centre in south-west London. Laura spotted the call for volunteers on her Facebook page and mentioned it to her dad over dinner. They’re both loving the work.
We were trusted immediately and given responsibility. There is no agenda it’s just team work
Volunteer Ryan Edwards, 27, is helping to deliver hot food to local people by bike. He enjoys it so much that he volunteers at two different places in Tottenham, north London.
I love helping out. It makes me feel valued and that what I’m doing is important
Simon is a travel writer who is living with stage 4 metastatic cancer. He found out eight months ago the cancer was terminal. He’s signed up for the NHS volunteer scheme as a telephone responder. “I’ve just had a letter from the NHS saying I need to stay inside for at least the next seven weeks,” he says. “I’ve registered with the scheme but they seem to be very slow at setting it up. I’ve been logged in to the app and on call for 374 hours so far, but haven’t had a single call yet.”
I’m a very positive person and I can totally relate to the feelings of other people locked in at home
Liz Citron, a coaching specialist from south London, has volunteered for the Project5 scheme to help coach NHS workers, via video calls, through moments of crisis.
It’s about helping people find a workable solution at a moment of crisis
“I helped a doctor think through his concerns about PPE and together we found a solution,” says Citron. “The hospital where he worked wouldn’t let him wear his own mask, even though it offered better protection than those provided by the hospital. He was worried about catching the virus but didn’t want to break the rules. Together we realised if he wore his own mask underneath the one provided by the hospital he could comply and be satisfied he was protecting his health.”
Gurpreet Singh Anand and Tejinder Singh at the Central Gurdwara in Notting Hill, west London. “I applied to be an NHS volunteer a month ago but I’ve only had one request through the app so far, but the temple is providing 500 meals a day to Queen Charlotte’s hospital, a homeless hostel and to food banks serving the Grenfell area,” says Singh Anand.
It’s embedded into Sikh culture, where we go we help out. We think that by helping humanity it’s our way of being in touch with God
Gurpreet Singh Anand
Volunteer Anita Watson usually runs a Caribbean street food business but is now the head chef at a food redistribution centre in Tottenham, north London, that is producing 400 meals a day.
I felt I could use my time, creativity and talent to help others. You look at whatever ingredients that have been donated and you make it work. Getting lovely feedback makes you feel like you’ve contributed