Marina Kim and Nabil Najjar: Let’s honour the heroes of the pandemic on the 23rd of March

22 Mar

Marina is communications and public affairs specialist; she set up the UK Community Network to help the most vulnerable people in society during the pandemic. Nabil is a political and international development consultant, and relationships and outreach coordinator for the UK Community Network.

The pandemic has brought out the best in our communities, with neighbours helping neighbours, Covid-19 mutual aid and community support groups taking off, and newfound support and gratitude for our NHS. We have even seen people who have never volunteered before stepping up for the occasion. It’s been heart-warming to see our society springing into action and self-organising on the ground.

As we prepare for easing off the restrictions and the road to recovery after a year of the pandemic, it is time to show our appreciation for people who have been supporting the most vulnerable in our communities across the country. With that in mind, here at the UK Community Network we propose marking the UK Community Day tomorrow.

Numerous cross-party MPs have already supported the idea. We hope many more MPs will be willing to show their support for the UK Community Day by speaking out publicly about it, making their constituents aware that they can take part by taking a pledge to volunteer on the day and, most importantly, making this a yearly event in our calendars.

While for some people volunteering is a way of life, others need more encouragement. Having one day each year dedicated to encouraging people to do something positive in their communities, and celebrating those who have gone above and beyond for others, would be a testament to their work, and a positive legacy from the pandemic.

And the time to do that is now, when the spirit of togetherness is almost omnipresent.

These activities do not necessarily require people to be in a group ,and do not have to be focused on the pandemic-related activities. Even picking up litter on your local beach or a park could be a great way to contribute. You could get involved online by raising awareness about a charity of your choice, donating money, fundraising, or doing a bit of research work for them.

We would also encourage charities to come up with ideas of how they would like people, some of whom might never have volunteered before, to get involved with them for Community Day to try out what the volunteering is like.

Volunteering does not only benefit to the person who is being helped, it can help people make friends and feel less lonely, learn new skills and advance your career, and even feel happier and healthier. It makes living in your local area more enjoyable. The Ipsos Mori research for the Cabinet Office in 2015 highlighted that almost all young participants in social action feel a ‘double benefit’ (93 per cent), in that they say they benefitted personally and considered that other people benefitted from their activities.

People who volunteer even once then get the bug to do so more often, and we are likely to see that spirit of the Community Day manifesting itself again and again for years to come.

This initiative joins together Community Heroes from all over the country. At a time when there are some voices that want the UK to be less united, the initiative to mark the UK Community Day does more than just celebrate the Heroes, it also unites the nation. We were pleased to see nearly a hundred people from Belfast, Manchester, Glasgow and small villages from all parts of the UK being nominated and selected as local Community Heroes, and at an online event on the 23rd, we are looking forward to showing our respect and admiration to them and hearing their stories.

At 8pm on the 23 March we will also be lighting the candles for a minute of silence to reflect and remember those who have been taken from us by the pandemic. The toll would have undoubtedly been worse without the selfless efforts of volunteers. Let’s celebrate our local heroes, support hardworking charities and community groups, and cement the spirit of togetherness. Let’s honour the heroes of the pandemic on the 23 March, the newly-proposed UK Community Day.