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‘We’re the boots on the ground’: Hampstead community group leads charge to combat coronavirus and support isolated neighbours

PUBLISHED: 09:39 17 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:44 20 March 2020

The four founders of Hampstead Volunteer Corps. From left to right: Brendan Guy, Sarah Dobbie, Connor Rochford and Kate Guy. Picture: Hampstead Volunteer Corps

The four founders of Hampstead Volunteer Corps. From left to right: Brendan Guy, Sarah Dobbie, Connor Rochford and Kate Guy. Picture: Hampstead Volunteer Corps

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A Hampstead commmunity group tackling coronavirus by supporting vulnerable and isolated residents has signed up 193 volunteers in three days.

Door-knocking in NW3. Picture: Hampstead Volunteer CorpsDoor-knocking in NW3. Picture: Hampstead Volunteer Corps

Hampstead Volunteer Corps (HVC), founded on Saturday (March 14), has witnessed a huge community response from neighbours wanting to help those anxious over the outbreak.

The neighbourhood group, created by four Hampstead Village residents, has sprung up from NW3 but is planning to expand over the coming weeks as isolation measures escalate.

It is is working with Camden Council, Mutual Aid UK - a network of community support groups - Hampstead Village Business Improvement District (BID) and local churches to identify people in need.

HVC co-founder Kate Guy said: “I think it’s so important that neighbours come together in this time because if somebody needs help it’s those people living next to us that are going to support.

The community action group has received huge support since starting up. Picture: Hampstead Volunteer CorpsThe community action group has received huge support since starting up. Picture: Hampstead Volunteer Corps

“It’s so important that we come together, especially before things get worse, so that we know who’s where, who needs the help and how can we do so quickly and effectively.

“Beyond that, I found that personally in this time of intense anxiety it really helps to do something and I think a lot of people in the community in our volunteer group feel that they just want somewhere where they can help lessen the stress and strain of this intense moment.

“It really does help to even be doing just a little bit within your community - it helps you feel mentally better about what’s happening.”

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HVC’s primary aim is to first develop the network of volunteers - the ‘boots on the ground’ - who are willing and able to give their time to support the cause.

It is then hoped these volunteers will become the frontline of neighbourhood support, delivering food and sanitary supplies to the homebound.

The group is already delivering flyers and is setting up a phone call service for those needing help or simply a chat, allocating its work between neighbourhood teams.

It was set up by four Hampstead Village residents who work in international policy - Kate, a PHD student at Oxford University but who lives in Flask Walk, her husband Brendan Guy, Connor Rochford and Sarah Dobbie.

Kate said: “It’s been fun taking those skill sets we have at a global level and saying ‘okay, what do we need to do here in our communities?

“Not necessarily at that global level, but literally how do we just help our neighbours.”

For more information on HVC and how to sign up, visi hampsteadvolunteers.co.uk.

For PHE advice on coronavirus, its symptoms and how to self-isolate, go to www.gov.uk.

For live updates on coronavirus across north London, visit our blog or Facebook group.

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