Home / News / 'It’s given me faith back in humanity': the lockdown volunteers – a photo essay

'It’s given me faith back in humanity': the lockdown volunteers – a photo essay

Posted on Mar 27, 2021

G oodgym, a community of runners and cyclists from all over the UK, take on missions within their local area that combine getting fit with doing good. So far, during the pandemic, 19,000 of their volunteers have logged 37,906 good deeds, often working with local authorities and partners such as AgeUK and the British Red Cross, to deliver essential tasks. The Royal Voluntary Service has also been adapting to the pandemic, swapping in-person wellbeing visits to phone calls and ensuring regular services such as the Enfield home library can continue to serve the community.

  • Jacqueline helping Elaine, 68, in Peckham with her garden.

Jacqueline Francis

Jacqueline has been a member of GoodGym for four years and has completed more than 400 missions.

Elaine: “This is the first time I’ve had anyone come and help me. I’m a flowers girl. I always do the garden myself, always. It’s good exercise. I can do the smaller jobs but not the big machinery.”

Jacqueline: “I’ve been doing this thing where you try to run all the streets in your borough, so sometimes I sign up to a mission because I know it’s going to make me go to a bit I haven’t done.”

  • Girija, Dee and Nick helping Gregg, 60, move his furniture to make space for a new bed being given to him by the British Legion.

Girija Tase, 27, Dee Ower, 45, and Nick Moore, 50

Gregg: “Aren’t there some good people out there, it’s a genius simple idea.”

Dee: “I’ve always wanted to volunteer and saw a post on Instagram that caught my eye. I thought, what an amazing idea. I’m a social butterfly so it’s perfect for me. Coming together as a community, socialising and having fun in the area where you live, getting to run or cycle to missions. It’s definitely helped me in lockdown.”

Nick has completed 244 missions. “It’s incredibly fulfilling, I’d never done anything like it before. I turn 50 today and am doing a mission for my birthday. It’s a great idea, in many ways it’s very simple.”

  • Girija and Alex collect leftover food from Greggs in Brixton to deliver to a homeless outreach centre at Chandler community hall.

Girija Tase, 27, and Alex Brockman, 28

Alex: “I’m freelance and wasn’t working for some of lockdown, so it’s been great to put those spare hours to good use. When you’re only seeing your own household, it has a really positive impact.”

Girija: “I’ve done 153 missions and counting. I had been trying to get into running for a while, it’s helped me develop a much better relationship with my body. It really is the most inclusive and joyful wellbeing community I’ve ever come across.”

  • Isobel, Michael and dog Bowie in Newham, receive their prescription from volunteer Hilary Wood.

Hilary Wood

Isobel and Michael have been shielding since March 2020 and have had their prescriptions delivered four times. This is the second time they are meeting Hilary.

“We used to go down to the pharmacy on the mobility scooter but you’ve got to be careful now. My daughter comes once every week with a bit of food She’s only here for five or 10 minutes, then goes. We haven’t seen the baby for 18 months.”

  • Hilary Wood collects the prescriptions.

Hilary: “Some days I wouldn’t have left the house had it not been for the motivation to come for a bike ride. Now my job is work from home, Goodgym is my replacement commute.”

  • Anna-Lou Manca, 38, a social worker who runs online cooking clubs for carers in the community as part of the Kinship Hub.

Anna-Lou Manca, 38

Anna-Lou is a social worker running Kinship Hub, a support network for kinship carers across London. Goodgym cyclists will deliver ingredients to kinship carer families in south London, for a weekly online cook-along.

Anna-Lou: “The group cookalongs are a way to combat isolation and create a network of carers within the local area. We’re making pizza today. I’m Italian so this is the real deal.”

  • Kim drops off an ingredient delivery to Sharon, a kinship carer in south London, so she can make pizza over zoom later that evening.

Sharon McPherson, 51

Sharon is a kinship carer to her two grandsons, aged nine and 16 years.

Sharon: “The most popular recipe was the tuna pasta bake and the rice and peas, that went down well. It’s important for the kids to know that they’re not alone, everybody on the cooking club isn’t living with their birth parents, for various reasons. It shows that they’re not the only one.”

  • Latoya Stephens, 39, from Enfield, delivers the weekly shop to Betty Johnson, 92, a retired nurse.

Latoya Stephens, 39

Latoya has been a Goodgym member for three years, and completed more than 200 missions.

Betty: “I get a weekly shop from Asda but sometimes I need extra things, so Goodgym delivers shopping once a week. When the computer wasn’t working I didn’t see anyone for three weeks, I was so glad when they rang up and said they were coming again.”

  • Betty Johnson.

Latoya: “You realise that so many people don’t have anyone that can help them. It’s given me faith back in humanity.”

  • Natalie Tremlett walks Jacob for Janet.

Nat alie Tremlett

Janet, in her 80s, is a retired NHS nurse. Her dog Jacob, a German shepherd, is 13 and has a wheelchair for his back legs. He is walked by volunteers once a day.

Janet: “Jacob’s been in a wheelchair for the last three weeks. It’s difficult to walk him because of his back legs, but the volunteers have been wonderful.”

Natalie, a member of Goodgym for the past two and a half years, said: “I signed up to have a reason to keep running after completing my first marathon. It’s nice to feel like you’re making a difference to someone who has been isolated during the pandemic. We’ve struck up a real friendship that will continue after lockdown.”

  • Nick delivers shopping to Alan Spence, 94.

Nick Moore, 49

Alan lives on the second floor and cannot use the stairs. Alan has had shopping delivered every week since August 2020.

Alan: “I’ve met Nick a few times, there are other regulars that come with my shopping, too. I can’t get out, I used to go to the daycare centre every week but that’s been stopped with lockdown. I had my jab two weeks ago, I’m waiting for my next one. I want everyone to have it.”

Nick Moore, 50, has completed 244 missions. He’s shopped for Alan 12 times. “I had a year off work at the end of 2019. I was meant to travel but with Covid restrictions wasn’t able to. I’d never done any volunteering before. It’s incredibly fulfilling. How would I have met Alan otherwise?”

  • Rob delivering Hotel du Lac on audiobook to Mabel, 104, and her daughter Chris, 67, in north London.

Rob Costa, 62

Rob is part of the Royal Voluntary Service.

Rob: “I’ve been part of the Enfield home library service for the past five years. I was looking out for voluntary roles after I retired, I always liked keeping busy. We deliver twice a month. Since Covid we quarantine the books and wear PPE for deliveries. The users are very happy the service is still up and running. They look forward to it.”

Mabel: “It’s a breath from outside, which is so nice, four walls get a bit boring as everybody knows. I’ve really appreciated everything they’ve done. First I had large-print books but now it’s the speaking ones. I like interesting stories and a certain amount of crime.”

  • Gywn Jones, 70, having a smartphone delivered in south London by Samuel Tucker.

Samuel Tucker, 52

Samuel: “My dad had a stroke five years before he died and I was grateful to those carers that helped him. Helping someone else makes me feel good. You meet some interesting people. It makes me feel grateful, I realise how fortunate I am.”

  • Sonny has been making phone calls to Dave, 92, who’s been shielding since the start of lockdown.

Sonny, 53

Sonny: “I started with the Royal Voluntary Service in November 2019. I met Dave face to face in March 2020. I’m on furlough from my job with British Airways so it’s a two-way thing.”

Dave: “The RVS phoned and asked if I wanted someone to come and see me. I said that sounds nice, because I live alone. It would be nice to have somebody to talk to. That’s how it started. Of course Sonny is a friend now. His visits and phone calls have meant a lot. It eases the living alone. We speak once a week.”

  • Stuart Redfern, 61, shopping for Josephine Hollingsworth, 86.

Stuart Redfern, 61

Stuart has completed 109 missions.

Josephine: “I’ve been a bit shut in during lockdown. I used to walk everywhere, I miss it. I haven’t seen my children since July, my son and my daughter. Stuart reminds me of my son, there’s only a year between them.”

Stuart: “It’s my second time shopping for Josephine. Last time we talked about her family and her life in London. Her dad used to run pubs and she’d take draft beer into the Old Vic and serve drinks to Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. Navigating parts of London that I’ve never been to before is interesting too, it’s like the knowledge that taxi drivers do.”