THE UNSUNG HEROES

Throughout this pandemic, key workers are putting themselves at risk every day by providing essential services for the front-line. Here, June speaks to some of our brave unsung heroes across Britain’s diverse workforce sectors.

JIM BLAKEMORE

Co-Founder and CEO of Bikeworks

“Business as normal at Bikeworks has been mothballed….The irony is that cycling as form or transport is probably the safest / fastest way to get around so it was clear we wanted to continue for as long as possible with distancing / cleaning of equipment being paramount.”

Zoe Portlock

Co-Founder and Chair of Bikeworks – Freelance Charity & Social Enterprise Consultant

 “You never know what is possible until you’re faced with impossible”

Gemma Morris

Manager, LEYF Mark’s Gate Nursery

“The biggest challenge and concern was with our food bank. As panic buying set in at the shops,  and donations drying up naturally, our stock went down to basically nothing, with many vulnerable people in our community in need.”

Abisola Adebola

Financial Controls & Reconciliation Accountant, LEYF

“On a personal level, it has taught me to be more grateful, appreciative and to keep reaching out to others by showing love in any little way. On a professional level, it has taught me never to take my colleagues for granted”

David & Anna Wright

Owners, Paint Pots Nurseries, Southampton

“We definitely moved from strategic to survival mode. All our priorities changed… The crisis has confirmed our belief in what is important in life – love and relationships. Nothing else really matters.”

Samantha Creme

Case Team Leader, Bain & Company 

“The biggest change about the day job itself was not being able to brainstorm and bounce ideas off my team members in person. I get a lot of energy from collaborating with others, so it took some time to get used to doing that over Zoom.”

Mark Cleere

Property & Facilities Manager, LEYF

“Mainly it made it very difficult to have face-to-face contact at nurseries as often as I would like. I ensured I kept contact with the managers at open nurseries up by phone with occasional visits with stocks of PPE and sanitiser to keep them safe and hopefully boost morale a bit with a visit.”

Wayne & Bobbi-Jo O'Reilly

HLTA (High Level Teaching Assistant)/Deacon and Nursery Teacher

A father and daughter team, both still working and teaching, as well as delivering food parcels to their community.

Jenny Holloway

CEO, Fashion Enter Ltd.

“Take nothing for granted and keep your spirit level level! We have a great British can-do attitude and I am so proud of what the factory has achieved so quickly!”

Neil Leitch

CEO, Early Years Alliance

“We’ve had a lot of rhetoric from politicians about how valued the sector is, but this has yet to convert into adequate tangible support.”

Emma miller

Manager, LEYF Busy Tails Nursery

“One day we had closed and the next there was lock-down. A few days later, it was “What is a Keyworker ?” then ‘Who will be able to work?’ and ‘Who is at risk?’ “

DANIELA HACKETT​

Deputy Manager, LEYF Bushy Tails Nursery​

“So that I could continue to go into work, my parents moved out and to stay with my grandad, due to my dad having diabetes and being at higher risk. It was amazing  that my parents this is for me.”

Zoe Rae

Nursery Owner, Goldsmiths Community Nursery

“Nothing fulfils you more than following your heart and doing the right thing…I am happy knowing I am helping, I have felt scared and worried at times, but then I jump on our staff group chat and they make me giggle, or I receive a warm email from a parent expressing their gratitude and my heart is happy again. This is what keeps my mind healthy.”

Yvonne Cadore

Manager, LEYF Katharine Bruce Nursery

“I am a strong and determined individual when it comes to a life crisis; throughout my career I have experienced life trauma that has shaped me into the woman that I am today. I have been able to adapt to changes made internally and externally, to differences within the workplace and dealing with difficult situations..”

Juliete (Juls) Davies

Virtual Assistant specialising in the Early Years sector / Founder & Facilitator of EY Matters 

“My most important motivator is my love for the sector and the hope that I can make a difference to some.”

Mark Simms

CEO, P3 Charity

“This might seem odd to say, but we planned and mostly the plan has gone as we expected, the big challenges are making sure our people have everything that they need.”

Stacey-Jane Whitfield

Manager, LEYF New Cross Nursery

“When the outbreak started it was sad to read about all the people whose lives were being affected by the virus, but it wasn’t ‘real’ as it wasn’t here and still so far away. As it began to move closer to home it become more unsettling and the ‘what if’ questions went through my head which were unsettling and scary, but I wanted to carry on as normal.”

Susan Aktemel

Executive Director, Homes for Good Social Business Group

“We went to remote working on 12th March and the first week was a novelty for all of us, then I realised that I would be living on zoom for the foreseeable future. Communicating with the team scattered around the city, in a very different style ( from informal and collaborative to very direct / command and control), in a very uncertain context, required me to be 100% ready to change on a daily basis -the first few weeks of that was absolutely exhausting.”