Last Thursday I was honoured to join the HRH Princess Royal to celebrate the volunteers and public services heroes of the pandemic. In a packed event at Dover Castle, Princess Anne thanked many of the volunteers and public service workers who helped made such an incredible difference in our community.
Inevitably not everyone who has helped could be at the event. Even Dover Castle isn’t large enough for that. But it was great to see so many organisations represented including Kent Police, HM Coastguard, Search & Rescue, Border Force, Kent County Council, Dover District Council and the Army. As well as three outstanding local organisations -the Dover Outreach Centre, Talk It Out and SuperNeighbours.
I was reminded once again of the outstanding work of the Dover Outreach Centre, who do such an amazing job caring for those who are homeless. The ‘Everyone In’ Government programme to make sure that no-one was left on the streets was one of the remarkable achievements of the pandemic. It is important that is built on to continue to help people into homes and a fresh stage of their lives. Tracy Carr of Deal’s Talk it Out spearheaded support for people who suffer from depression and mental ill-health. Isolation took its toll on so many people, yet Tracey’s group ensured they were never alone, providing vital company and friendship to those who needed it, as well as food parcels and much besides.
While Beverley-Jayne Last of Dover District SuperNeighbours organised teams of volunteers to help vulnerable people with shopping, getting prescriptions and even mowing lawns. As lockdowns ended and unlocking started, the SuperNeighbours team took people out for fish and chips or a walk around the seafront, to help people to re-orientate after a lengthy time alone.
The pandemic has been the most serious crisis our country has faced since the Second World War. It’s been such a tough time for everyone. Looking back, it is amazing how much was achieved in such a short space of time. So many people made an incredible difference during the pandemic.
As we move forward, seeking to rebuild following the pandemic, it is important we keep that unity of purpose and ‘can do’ spirit. We have done so well rolling out the vaccine that life is fast returning to as close to normal as it is possible to be. Yet as things return to normal, we need to keep the kindness, caring and generosity of spirit that has been the hallmark of the voluntary and public service workers during the pandemic.
It was a huge honour to join Princess Anne to celebrate our COVID heroes. A big thank you to those at the Castle and everyone who helped make the difference in the toughest of times. Let’s make sure we keep that unity of purpose and kindness in the months and years ahead.