AN IMPRESSIVE volunteer group set up to provide support for the most vulnerable residents of a north London community amid the coronavirus lockdown has now amassed 600 members.
The Hampstead Volunteer Corps was first launched when the pandemic hit Britain in March – when a group of residents from the north London village, who were concerned about how their more vulnerable neighbours would fare within lockdown restrictions, decided to take action.
Co. Monaghan man Martin Connolly, who has been living and working in London for the past two years, and lives in the area, has been involved from the start.
“From the outset, our goal has been neighbours helping neighbours,” he told The Irish Post.
“I work for a procurement company travelling all over the UK, but the pandemic meant I couldn't travel as much so I found myself at home and wanted to help neighbours in need,” he explained.
Martin joined his similarly minded neighbours and the group began to leaflet their local area and post flyers in public spaces offering their services.
Their posters read: ‘Need help? Grocery shopping. Prescription pickup. Dog walking.’
They include pictures of some of the volunteers who are willing and able to offer help with these services and asks them to “please do get in touch”.
“Living close to the Royal Free Hospital, we know a lot of the nurses and staff there and felt we really wanted to help, while also helping people in isolation and quarantine at home,” Martin says.
“Joining a volunteer group was a great way to give back, get to know people and has been a rewarding experience.”
To date the group has more than 600 members and is serving those who need them most across the community.
Martin, as a Hampstead Volunteers Corps ‘Captain’, is one of the volunteers who helps organise the effort across his postcode area – which covers Parliament Hill, Parkhill Road, Fleet Road, and South End Green.
And he’s not the only Irish member of the group.
Fellow Hampstead resident Ailbhe Burke, a Cork-born neurology consultant for the NHS who moved to London in 2001, is a fellow ‘Captain’ for the same postcode.
Another active volunteer in the Corps team is Kerry native Liz Lane – who has spent the past 32 years living in London, where she works as a carer.
Having flyered all of their local streets ahead of the lockdown kicking in in March, the Hampstead Volunteer Corps are as busy now as they ever were with the service, Martin confirms.
“We flyered all the streets in our area just before the lockdown and so take regular requests for prescription collections, grocery shopping, welfare calls and so on,” he explains.
“We have had a huge response from our neighbours,” he adds.
“Our posters adorn shop windows, even those who have had to close.”
The group is also working closely with other aid groups as well as Camden Council to help those who fall outside of the Hampstead postcode or immediate area to ensure they too get help as and when they need it.