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There With You: St John’s Wood student starts delivery service for elderly as coronavirus support

PUBLISHED: 14:05 24 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:36 24 March 2020

Help the Elderly received 500 emails of support since it started on March 15. Picture: Help the Elderly

Help the Elderly received 500 emails of support since it started on March 15. Picture: Help the Elderly

Help the Elderly

A St John’s Wood student has set up a food and medication delivery service to support the elderly amid the coronavirus crisis.

Ilana Dekel, 20, an art history student at University College London, started Help the Elderly on March 15 and received 500 emails from eager volunteers within the first two days.

The community service operating across London focuses on over-70s, people with chronic illness and anyone immunocompromised - people with weaker immune systems - who face a higher health risk from Covid-19.

“It was very touching to see so many people who wanted to help,” Ilana said.

“The volunteers I spoke to felt hopeless and said they had been looking for something like this.”

To sign up, volunteers visit the Help the Elderly’s website, register their area, availability and contact details, then those needing supplies select a nearby volunteer to call.

Ilana was motivated to set up the service after caring for her father, and observing the shopping struggles of elderly people.

“I have a dad who is over 70, he’s locked himself up at his apartment and I go out and get food for him.”

“I saw a lady struggling at my local Tesco and thought of all the elderly people who have to do it, because they don’t have anyone else to do it for them.”

Like many wanting to take positive action to mitigate the health crisis, Ilana has had to adapt quickly.

Setting up the service has been a learning curve for the enterprising student, who realised the legal need for volunteers to be DBS checked following a surge of hundreds of emails.

With the charitable help of a web developer, Ilana improved the business’ website to help recruit volunteers to distribute flyers to supermarkets and pharmacies - which does not require a DBS check.

As of March 23, 78 volunteers had signed up to Help the Elderly, which is seeking to mobilise community spirit to help people most at risk. For more information and how to volunteer visit helptheelderly.org

As part of the Ham&High’s There With You campaign, see our essential list of community groups here.

For the latest coronavirus news from the Ham&High and across north London visit our live blog and join our Facebook group.


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