The Good, The Bad and The Virus: How Hackney is Fighting COVID-19

Image credit – Simon Way

COVID-19 has forced the world to into lockdown: people are working from home, standing two metres apart in the ransacked supermarkets and speaking to their friends and family through a computer screen. 

Whilst our Government has told everyone to stay at home, nurses, doctors, police officers, firefighters, social workers and supermarket staff have rallied to keep everyone safe, alive and well fed despite the dangers. 

Below are four ways in which the people of Hackney have risen above Coronavirus and kept us all afloat.

1. Made in Hackney have raised nearly £50,000 to provide free meals for the community

Cookery at Made In Hackney – image credit Simon Way

Made In Hackney is a local charity and food kitchen in Stoke Newington specialising in plant based cookery that not only provide to those in the community that need food, but also teach others the skills of cookery through community classes. 

The COVID-19 crisis has left many elderly and vulnerable in the community alone and unable to get food. The pandemic has also forced Made In Hackney to close their kitchens and so instead, they have turned their focus to providing food to those in the community who need it most.

Made In Hackney founder Sarah Bentley said: “This is an emergency. There is a very real risk of our most vulnerable community members going hungry and becoming extremely isolated. If we can’t teach cookery classes, then we need to get nourishing food delivered to the people who need it most another way”.

To do this, they created a crowd-funding page in a bid to raise £30,000 to provide a free food home delivery service to the community. Within nine days they raised £43,000 meaning their aim of being able to provide 12,000 meals to homes in Hackney over the next two months looks on course to be achieved. 

The charity has teamed up with Dalston gourmet restaurant Angelina who are helping to cook and provide the meals based on the Made In Hackney cookery school’s bank of recipes. The meal plans have been recommended by one of the charity’s teachers Hannah Walker, who is also an NHS dietician. 

Cycle couriers will collect the food and deliver it to households on a list that have been collated in conjunction with front line NHS staff and local grassroot charities. 

2. Frampton Park Baptist Church Are Broadcasting Their Services Online

Co-Pastors Richard Bowman (left) and Torquil Allen (right) delivering an online service – image credit Frampton Park Baptist Church

Religion is important for many people, particularly at a time of crisis. The Government imposed restrictions on social distancing and the banning of mass gatherings has left many without a place of worship.

Frampton Park Baptist Church, a congregation in the middle of the Frampton Park housing estate usually holds a church service for up to 150 people each Sunday at 11am. They have not allowed social distancing and isolation to prevent them from worshipping as a community like normal during the crisis.

As of March 22, they have been using Facebook and Youtube to livestream their Sunday services to the community. The church may be empty, but people are still able to join in with prayer, worship, sermons and discussion.

Joseph Lukwago, 37 is the Church Coordinator at Frampton Park and has said that the community feedback has been extremely positive. He has collated statistics from Youtube and Facebook, showing that the service has reached nearly 1000 people in under a week.

“We definitely had to find a way to make sure our services continue. This Sunday it was really very encouraging because we had many people hooking in. During the service we had people interacting and communicating. For people who have been indoors, this is the kind of thing that can make a massive difference” he said.

Lukwago said that it is important for religious people of any denomination to be able to worship as a community. “We have to thank God for the current technology because before we couldn’t achieve that, but now it is possible [to still connect as a community]. This is something for us now to consider, how we continue to still be together as a church family using this technology” he said.

As well as providing the community with online church services, Frampton Park Baptist Church are also working alongside Well Street and Elsdale Street doctor’s surgeries to deliver food and medication to the vulnerable who are unable to get it themselves. Volunteers at the church will make these deliveries, ensuring they remain within the Government safety guidelines.

They have also posted flyers through the doors of the 1200 homes on the Frampton Park estate, providing residents with a mobile phone number they can call to chat or pray with someone if they are feeling isolated.

3. COVID-19 Mutual Aid Hackney established

Image credit –

A group of Hackney residents have set up a volunteer group called Hackney COVID-19 Mutual Aid to support residents in the borough who are suffering from the current Coronavirus conditions.

The group, comprised entirely of volunteers has spent two weeks organising and spreading leaflets around the borough to reassure residents that if they need help and support, they’ll get it.

Aviah Sarah, 32, a lecturer at Birkbeck University is currently volunteering at the group in Hackney, as well as groups in Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham. She said that it is important that in Hackney, there is a hyper localised response to the crisis. 

“We need to be able to rely on each other locally, to meet each other’s needs. No one knows who is going to get sick and when. Given that situation, we need to be able to rely on each other to get through this” she said.

The Mutual Aid group have been helping the people of Hackney with a variety of different tasks that range from providing food shopping for the elderly, speaking on the phone to people stuck in isolation and calling on elderly parents for children who may not be able to visit them due to social distancing restrictions. 

The group has also been supporting the Hackney Foodbank service, trying to help them restock their supplies.

Sarah said that the response from the community has been resoundingly positive, with people showing their appreciation through text messages thanking the group. Some have even responded by getting involved and volunteering to help.

“After we’ve seen all of the panic buying and these accusations that people have been selfish, I think genuinely people are quite heartened to see there’s people out there on their road who just want to help and make sure they are okay” she said.

If you need help from COVID-19 Mutual Aid Hackney or want to get involved, their Facebook page which has nearly 8000 members already can be found here.

4. Hackney Council Have Released A Support Map

The Hackney Council Support Map – image credit Hackney Council

Hackney Council has released a map of the borough that provide the locations and contacts of services and organisations that are still operating but providing an online or telephone service instead.

The map has been categorised depending on what need or support the user requires. Categories include support for people that are feeling anxious or lonely, looking to exercise their brain or get active, in need of food and groceries as well as support for anyone who may need employment or housing advice.

The web page also includes links for people who want to volunteer to different services and an option for businesses to register themselves with the council to be included on the map.

A link to Hackney Council’s map can be found here.

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