AUKL MYhohoho Campaign
Published on 15 January 2021 07:26 PM
After the amazing cheer AUKL was able to spread over the festive period irrespective of the blues that accompany the pandemic; we decided to go behind the scenes with one of the key organisers of the MYhohoho campaign. Kellie Rickell is part of the AUKL Handyfix team and explains the inspiration behind the MYhohoho campaign and the steps taken towards the successful outcome the campaign achieved. Over 250 people in Lambeth, who would have otherwise been forced to spend the 2020 Corona filled Christmas alone, were made to smile and had their stomachs filled with delicious Christmas meals.
The MYhohoho campaign was birthed from AUKL’s yearly Christmas celebrations held at Vida’s (home of AUKL) where every morning of the 25th of December, the doors are opened to individuals who would normally spend Christmas alone, or with no celebratory meal. Guests are treated to a traditional Christmas meal, presents, and a day filled with entertainment. Unfortunately, the pandemic ruled this out as an option. Loneliness was already a huge epidemic AUKL were trying to resolve, and coupled with the virus many residents were remaining isolated and living alone as a measure of safety. This fuelled the inspiration behind the MYhohoho campaign. The campaign became more than about offering a nice home cooked meal on Christmas Day, and also about providing a brief and safe social interaction to combat absolute loneliness on Christmas day. Kellie said: “It was important to remember that there are a lot of people that regularly spend Christmas alone, and they need to be supported, and even more remembered during a pandemic”.
A team of employees and volunteers worked collaboratively together to make the MYhohoho campaign a success. Volunteers had to be found that were happy to make a meal for someone in their area. Businesses were also contacted for donations to fund the treats that went into the goody bags, which accompanied the dinners. The initial contact for individuals wanting this service was also a way in for AUKL to make client referrals. Some of these individuals needed support to extend past Christmas day such as a regular shopping service or even a befriender so they would always have someone to talk to. Kellie tells us that “together we matched over 250 clients with a volunteer, making excellent use of map apps to ensure they lived close by, a huge logistical project!”. Kellie personally helped to pack the goody bags (wrapping over 250 presents) and distributed these out to volunteers before Christmas Day. She also cooked and delivered an amazing 10 Christmas meals on Christmas day!
We asked Kellie what step of bringing the campaign together did she find the most challenging and Kellie replied with the “matching of clients to volunteers” as many factors had to be considered to ensure each match was the right match. “For example, trying to match someone who is vegan to a vegan volunteer, and accommodating how a volunteer would travel to the clients house (walk, car or bike). We wanted to make sure the experience was enjoyable for all volunteers involved”. The referral deadline had to be extended 2-3 times but Kellie says “the team were well equipped for this. Another influx of volunteers came after the announcement of the Tier 4 system as their plans had changed, and this influx really helped because more client referrals came in as many more people who had Christmas bubbles were no longer allowed to be joined by family members/friends from other households”. The MYhohoho team were not only able to match the new referrals but in addition introduced Christmas day phone calls, which 25 volunteers took part in.
For Kellie the most rewarding part of the process was “being able to put a smile on people's faces and spread some Christmas joy!”. She was overwhelmed with how enormous the campaign had become and as the campaign came to life she saw “just how important this was and what a difference it was making”. It was for this reason that whilst the pandemic worsened, volunteers were consistently reassured and reminded of the correct safety precautions to take as part of this campaign. The goal was to always keep morale high “but with the campaign being such a positive project, keeping up the morale was always easy. A volunteer that, like Kellie, also cooked 10 dinners, said the experience was “grounding and eye-opening”.
The campaign saw a variety of volunteers come forward from small families. A father explained that he “wanted to teach his children a valuable lesson in the importance of community work.” Kellie found that the general consensus was that the volunteers were humbled by the experience. “We received a lot of gratitude from volunteers for organising this campaign so that they could get involved. But I can't reiterate enough how this wouldn't have worked without these volunteers. They were so important!” Kellie also added, “volunteer uptake as a result (post-Christmas) has been higher than normal which is great”.
To date, AUKL are still receiving multiple calls and messages from clients who were so chuffed and grateful. Some were even given enough food to eat on Boxing Day also. The campaign made such a difference for so many individuals who would normally spend the day in front of the TV with a microwaveable meal. One person said: “It was nice to see someone on Christmas Day, or talk to someone on the phone”. Another person particularly appreciated that the volunteer and his family were dressed up with Christmas jumpers and hats. “It’s the little things that make a huge difference” says Kellie and “as demands rise in many areas across the organisation, everyone is working hard to be reactive to the ever changing laws by offering help and support to as many people as possible. Volunteers continue to be a valued asset, offering to do food shops, run errands, pick up prescriptions and much more for residents that are isolating”. So on behalf of the entire AUKL workforce we want to say a huge thank you to all our volunteers without whom none of this would have been possible. We know it will be a great day when AUKL get to open their doors again and finally meet some of these inspiring and strong willed people in person after speaking with them over the phone for months.