By David Hennessy
People have been going to extraordinary lengths to help people in this crisis. Some have even been using their skills or contacts to get much needed protective equipment to those on the front line.
The initiative of Bart Murphy of MP Moran has already raised more than £8,000 and supplied desperate hospitals with more than 20,000 pieces of protective equipment. Using a crowdfunding campaign, Bart and his wife started raising funds and used these to start supplying gloves, protection glasses and cover-all suits as well as other much needed items such as hand sanitiser.
hese products have gone to hospitals such as Hillingdon, St. Mary’s, Northwick Park and Barnet. Northwood District Nurses, London Ambulance Service and St. Luke’s Hospice, who we appealed on behalf of in last week’s paper, have also gratefully received the help.
Bart told us that he was inspired by the Thursday night ‘clap for carers’ of two years ago which prompted him to think of what he could do to really assist.
Bart Murphy told The Irish World: “A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were clapping out on the street like everyone else and I just thought, ‘As lovely as clapping is, it’s not actually physically helping them’.
“I was just getting frustrated hearing about the amount of people that were without PPE. Because I’ve worked in Moran’s, a hardware store, for 20 years we’re still getting stock coming in.
“What I decided to do was set up a GoFundMe page, share it as much as we can and then use the funds to go out to contacts that I know in the industry and purchase all this PPE that they need and then obviously direct it to the NHS.
“We set it up Thursday evening and straightaway we had an amazing response. On the Friday I had a very tearful plea from a nurse based in Northwood who rang me in tears saying that the day I set up the charity page, they actually lost a 28-year-old colleague to coronavirus.
“She was really upset and frustrated about the whole NHS proces, they just weren’t getting the level of PPE they needed. She had been waiting two or three weeks trying to get products delivered to her and every time the delivery came, nothing she wanted was in it.
“That (her call) was on the Friday evening. By Monday lunchtime I had everything she had been waiting for handed over to her so within 24 hours, she got what she needed.
“That poor lady couldn’t even really speak when I met her. She couldn’t believe that she was actually getting it, she was quite shocked but then later on that evening, when it had sunk in, she sent us a heartfelt message.
“My phone, social media and email account has been inundated with requests. We’re getting calls from London Ambulance Service, we’re getting calls from every hospital you can name, litereally requests from everyone needing support really.
“We’ve distributed thousands of items so far. Last week we did a massive drop to Northwick Park Hospital and to Barnet Hospital as well as Northwood District Nurses.
“When we did the massive drop to Northwick Park, they were almost cheering in the corridors, just so grateful.
“They’re so short of it. They are getting it from the NHS but they’re just going through it so quickly.
“At the moment we can’t get it out quick enough.
“We’ve just hit the £8,000 mark. As quick as the money is coming in, I’m spending it and getting it straight out. I’m not waiting for it to build up. As soon as it comes in, we’re out spending it and getting it straight into the hospitals as quickly as possible.
“Moran’s, the company that I work for, have been fantastic. They’ve donated loads of products to the cause as well. Anything that they can spare, they’ve been donating.
“I’m using a network of people to donate products where they can, construction companies and people like MP Moran, builders merchants.We’re taking donations and getting them distributed.
“It was originally £5,000. I’ve upped it. I’m happy to keep upping it. The longer there’s a shortage and the longer I can keep getting things supplied, me and my wife are happy to keep going. She’s been great. She’s been on the phone getting contacts at hospitals and organising who needs what and where it needs to go. It’s been a team effort really.”
There has been an outcry for weeks about the lack of PPE available to NHS workers.
It was reported at the weekend that NHS worker Tracy Brennan, a healthcare assistant in North West London, quit when she was prevented from wearing a mask that she had bought herself. Tracy had been in self-isolation for 14 days and wanted to protect herself for the sake of her young daughter. She wrote in her resignation letter: “With a heavy heart and sadness, I feel I have no alternative but to hand this letter in as my formal resignation and will be unable to work my notice due to not being allowed to wear sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for the duties I perform.”
The Grilli family in North London are also doing their best to protect NHS workers. The Grilli family have been producing visors using 3D printers and with the help of the local community. Again through a crowdfunding page, the Grillis have raised over £15,000 and are producing 900 protective visors a week. However, they want to do much more. They will be producing 12,000 a week through an injection moulding process.
Christopher Grilli told The Irish World: “Every day we’re getting requests for thousands of parts from different channels.
“The crowdfunding took off and we had the ability to look at going for injection moulded parts which is much, much cheaper and much faster.
“Because I work for Nissan, they’ve been brilliant. They’ve stumped up the money to pay for the injection moulding tool.
“We’re going to use Nissan’s manufacturing plant in Sunderland as a hub to get parts up there from around the country, the visors, the headbands and the elastic.
“And they will package it and then distribute to the NHS around the country.
“(My wife) Emily has been in contact with directors of NHS London to finalise what they exactly want in terms of supply as well. We’ve got GP’s surgeries, dentists that are requesting parts, care homes.
“It’s so difficult to decide where to put them as a matter of urgency.
“It’s crazy. You see people in their cars getting the test done. The people doing the tests have just got a gauze mask on and nothing else but the thing is we need to act quickly.”
Chris believes China will be able to start supplying PPE in weeks to come: “We’ve got to bridge that gap between now when there’s nothing out there and having a good stream of parts coming in from Asia.”
A group in Ireland got in touch with Chris to request some help. Chris shared his design with them: “We’ve openly shared everything we can with them to speed up their process as well. There’s no holding back. If people want information, we can give them information.”
Emily Grilli adds: “We have 16 printers running. We’re making about 900 shields from home each week. We started off requesting £1,000, we’re nearly at than £15,000. The more we get, the more we can send out. We wanted to provide the local area to start with. Everywhere is desperate for these things.
“It’s been crazy, unbelievable. I’m getting emails, messages, comments on the JustGiving page that are just making us cry. People are so grateful. We do what we can but there aren’t enough hours in the day right now.”
Many organisations are helping isolated people by getting them the essentials that they need.
The London Irish Centre in Camden have partnered with Camden Council to become the borough’s Covid-19 community hub to support the most vulnerable residents in Camden.
The centre’s CEO Ellen Ryan told The Irish World: “This is part of our ethos to support all those who need to support in times of need. It is about extending the hand of friendship to all and ensuring that our building and resources are available at this critical time. The centre will continue to work closely with our partners in Camden to support and enable the relief efforts.
“This crisis is bringing out the very best in both the London Irish and Camden communities, who are working together to respond to these unprecedented challenges with courage, compassion, creativity and a true spirit of community.
“The London Irish Centre’s agile team was quick to respond with the following interventions:
Food parcel deliveries
A new health and wellbeing phone help line is now live
Advice services have moved to phone, email and web queries
The Centre’s Library team now curate and deliver book parcels to the isolated
Our telephone Befriending service has been greatly expanded.”
If you would like to donate to the centre, you can click here.