Life during this pandemic has certainly been unpredictable. We know there’s nothing like a crisis to bring out the extremes of human nature, and we're taking a moment to focus on the good that's happening as a result.
Surely one success story is the strategy adopted – and largely personified – by New Zealand and its prime minister, Jacinda Ardern. At just 39, Ardern has a leadership style which is characterised by clear and consistent empathy. Almost six weeks ago, she announced measures which she acknowledged would be “the strictest constraints placed on New Zealanders in modern history” and provided examples of what she expected of people and why. The outcome? Last week, 400,000 returned to work with much of the country's economy opening for business again.
Light and hope
There are significant signs of hope in Europe, too. Genoa, the port city in northern Italy, celebrated this week as a bridge connecting two halves of the city, and re-establishing regional transport routes, was completed. This new bridge replaces the Ponte Morandi, which tragically collapsed in 2019, killing 43 people and cutting off one half of the city from the other. Giuseppe Conte, the Italian prime minister, led the inaugural ceremony last week. He said that Genoa “teaches us that the greatest act of love is when we commit to restarting together.” He also spoke of the city radiating “a light that gives hope” – something we would all like to see just now.
Supporting good causes
While so many fundraising events have fallen victim to the virus, lockdown has provided alternative opportunities. The London Marathon should have taken place on 26 April, but has been postponed until October. Nevertheless a call went out to support the nation’s charities from home – by doing anything with a connection to the number 26. We were thrilled to see our very own Ed Hyland getting involved. He completed 26 reps of a of a truly monster hill close to where he lives.
Ed ran a total of 21.5 miles and climbed over 7,600 feet in the process. “Legs in absolute tatters,” he said, after he got his breath back, “but boy, it was worth it.
“Thanks so much to everyone who has supported Overgate Hospice, and a big shout out to the residents who cheered me on from their gardens, doors and windows”. It was a great effort, especially as everyone kept a safe distance, and Ed raised an impressive £1,199 for the hospice.
In London, a community-led project, Bees & Refugees also achieved its fundraising objective. Just as it was about to run out of money, the £12,000 raised on the crowdfunding platform Spacehive means that beekeeping can continue in Hammersmith and Fulham. The project has a dual objective: to increase the urban bee population, and to support refugees who are interested in beekeeping and permaculture. Ali Alzin, a refugee whose grandfather taught him about bees in Syria, said “I almost lost hope with Covid-19 and everything that’s happening, but it feels really treat that we’re going to be able to go ahead”. For beekeepers like Ali, this means so much more than making honey, “I believe that being around bees is really therapeutic,” he said, “it calms a person down”.
The virus has definitely added a new level of challenge to our lives. Supermarkets were almost overwhelmed by super-quick change in customer behaviour. With a pretty remarkable effort, they have hired new people, expanded delivery services and responded to socially distancing rules. Things were touch-and-go for a while, but they seem to be riding the wave right now.
Furloughed Foodies London is made up of people who are similarly adaptable. Coming from a wide range of pre-virus jobs (such as theatre producer and account executive), the Foodies are using their skills – in cooking, marketing, logistics – to deliver healthy meals to front line hospital workers.
They have cooked over 8,000 meals for the key workers in the NHS and those struggling most in the community. Having started from scratch, there are now over 550 volunteers delivering to more than 15 hospitals and homeless shelters every week. This crisis came out of the blue for most of us, and there's no way the Foodies could have predicted the direction their lives would take in 2020.
In an atmosphere where everything is coloured by the pandemic, it’s great to see evidence of persistence, perseverance and positivity. When one door shuts, people are getting on and finding another to open – often finding themselves in unexpected territory. And they’re making it work.