Coronavirus response: Meet Hestia's Heroes

All key workers are heroes. Every week, we'll be sharing the stories from the people across Hestia who are going above and beyond to ensure we can keep our services running efficiently and our service users supported at this time.

A big thank you to everyone for your invaluable efforts during this difficult period. You're changing lives.

Theo Ogboru

Theo is a Support Worker at Hestia’s DGYH service for Hestia’s Dame Gertrude Young House (DGYH) service, which provides support accommodation for 23 men with substance misuse or mental health needs.

One of the residents, an 81-year-old man, is recovering from COVID-19, and Theo has gone above and beyond in supporting his recovery. While doing sleep-ins at the service, he has been getting up every hour to check on him, and going out regularly to find the specific Asian food that resident wants. 

Sanda Hippolyte, Team Manager at DGYH, said:

Theo - he has been amazing with a service user recently. Theo is always smiling and has a positive attitude, in spite of this difficult period we are all going through and this reflects on staffs and service users’ calm and happier mood at the service.”

The team at Old Hospital Close (Paul Golding, Kamal Ganiyu, Hakim Besigye, Waheed Adeogun and Margaret Jefia-Duhur)

The team at Old Hospital Close are getting through this current crisis with good team spirit and by everyone playing their part.

Ordinarily, some of the residents would go out daily, and are therefore struggling with the current restrictions imposed due to coronavirus. However, the team have worked together to encourage them to get involved with daily tasks, boosting their independence, and keeping them safe indoors throughout this period.

Before lockdown hit, one resident in particular would meet with their mother every day for their meals. The fact that this is no longer possible was very difficult for both the resident and their mother to handle. However, by banding together, the team have managed the situation well – Paul has been doing an hour-round trip to the mother’s house every day to pick up food to give to her son.

Kamal has been working to ensure her son is fed, clean and safe, while Margaret has been helping him to prepare the food.

The distress at the situation has eased, and the resident’s mother has expressed her deep gratitude, saying the team at Old Hospital Close is the best team her son has ever been supported by.

Lee Randall

Lee is a Manager at ASDA in Wembley, the supermarket close to Hestia’s Dame Gertrude Young House (DGYH) service, which provides support accommodation for 23 men with substance misuse or mental health needs.

When the spread of coronavirus began picking up in the UK, supermarkets began limiting the quantity of products that could be purchased. For Sandra Hippolyte, Team Manager at DGYH, things became difficult very quickly. As a 24 hour service providing all meals for residents, the inability to buy in bulk was a big problem.

“I was having to go to the shop every day. I was anxious, thinking how are we going to feed the service users? How will we cope? I couldn’t order online as there were no slots. I just kept thinking that I couldn’t let them starve, and that I’d need to start going from shop to shop, queuing for an hour at every one – even then they might not have had the stock I needed. I managed to have a word with the manager, Lee. I showed him my keyworker letter. I explained the service and how much I needed the food. After that, they have let me buy in bulk and helped me with what I’ve needed. Everything has worked well since then – I get to do the shopping before everyone else, during key worker hours. They were really understanding."

Lee says he understood the vital needs of Sandra’s service.

“As the pandemic took hold, we really understood the impact we were having in ASDA Retail. The team in ASDA Wembley were putting in many hours filling the shop, only to find customers kept on coming. As we went into lockdown though, we understood the needs to support the community with specific times to shop, and to make local decisions on supply, and making the right call in helping others. I was glad to help here with Sandra, and I’m really glad to help locally in the community.”

The impact of Lee’s thoughtfulness has been felt throughout the service says Sandra.

“I’m just very happy and relieved. It’s made life a lot easier for me and the service users. I’m able to do all the shopping at once, and have more time to do other things and to continue supporting the men at DGYH.”

Dorota Matuszewska

When the Team Manager at Hestia’s Registered Care Home Harwood Road had to start shielding, Dorota stepped up incredibly quickly, becoming an on-site management presence for the Harwood Road team.

During the coronavirus outbreak, the team have experienced numerous challenges: bereavement, another client being unwell in hospital, and supporting someone who is expressing very challenging behaviour due to their mental health. One client also needs specific personal care which the team are providing every day. The service continues to operate high levels of face to face support for clients who are bereaved and struggling during this period.

The team, led by Dorota, are managing well. She remains at the forefront, managing the day to day running of a 15 bed CQC registered care home for people with severe and enduring mental health issues, and ensuring that her team remain resilient and power through this together.

Dorota said:

“I am privileged to be given the opportunity of leading the team and the service users in this very difficult time. We have gone through great challenges and a gloomy time. Together, as a team we managed to pull ourselves together and provide the best support to our service users. All staff members have been very supportive, we have implemented some new methods of working so it makes it easier and more efficient in this difficult period of time.”

David Griffiths

In his role as Service Manager, David has always had five teams to oversee – Wandsworth Generic Floating Support service, Wandsworth Drug & Alcohol Floating Support service, the Lewisham Calabash Centre for older adults, Bromley Mental Health Floating Support service and Croydon Generic Floating Support service.

This has required additional resilience and motivation during the Coronavirus crisis.

David has co-ordinated and supported his local teams to swiftly change their delivery style to meet the needs of the clients at the service, but in addition, he himself has been undertaking visits and drops and welfare checks on clients to ensure that everyone within the services are safe, connected and supported throughout this crisis.

David is out and about supporting his teams every day and is showing true Hestia spirit in his determination to ensure that the health, safety and wellbeing of his staff and service users is paramount.

Incredibly sadly, there have been six deaths since lockdown began in David’s services, 3 of which are related to coronavirus. This has been especially hard on David and his teams as many were in hospital and none of the staff could visit them as they usually would when clients were hospitalised.

David has continued to lead his teams to be focused and resilient, supporting each other and their clients through the bereavement and loss that they have experienced with courage, determination and positive regard.

Fatma Demirel

Fatima was a volunteer for Hestia’s Refuge Referral Line, answering phone calls from women looking to flee domestic abuse and find space at a refuge.

As coronavirus began to spread in the UK, Fatma became a Pool Worker for the line. However, when the UK went into lockdown, the Manager of the Refuge Referral Line became ill.

With other volunteers unable to complete the work from home, and pool workers unavailable, the service became at risk of not being able to operate.

Fatma stepped in to run the Refuge Referral Line as a one-woman team, saving the line from temporary closure.

 “I was happy to do it. I started working in the office, and then we had to set it up remotely. I took my phone and laptop home and set up the Refuge Referral Line from home. We were inundated with calls and emails, and though it was a challenge, I pulled through.”

Lockdown has seen a surge in the number of people experiencing domestic abuse contacting helplines for support.

By stepping in to manage the line, Fatma managed to ensure that last week, all of our refuge spaces were filled.

“I know that the helpline is crucial. It’s difficult to get out of the house at the moment, and I spoke to a lot of people afraid to leave because of the coronavirus. I was able to reassure them, and I was able to help everyone.”

The volunteers at The Listening Place

The Listening Place is a mental health support service, set up in 2016 to provide a safe space for people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts to come and talk freely to experienced volunteers.

As COVID-19 spread and it became clear that front line staff and key workers would be under a lot of added pressure, The Listening Place stepped in.

Turning into a phone-based support service, The Listening Place began providing support for Hestia’s staff who are feeling the stress of the current situation and need a space to talk freely about they feel, and how to deal with it.

Staff members are contacted by a designated and experienced volunteer, with the pair discussing when and how often they would like to talk over the phone.

Terrence Collis, Trustee and Supervising Volunteer at The Listening Place, said:

“The whole feeling around this crisis is isolation. We want people to know that however isolated you feel, don’t feel you have to cope on your own. You can always talk to The Listening Place. Hestia is a valued partner of ours, so we were very happy to begin providing this service. It’s a very open befriending service; our role is to get Hestia’s staff to a place where, through talking, they feel able to help themselves.”

For more information and to refer yourself for support, head to

Billie Cooper

Billie is a Mental Health Recovery Worker at Hestia’s Huddlestone Close accommodation service. As the coronavirus crisis began to unravel, Billie noticed that there was a lot of information, from a lot of different sources, and that it could be overwhelming for the people she supports.

Wanting to ensure the people she supported felt informed, she set up the Huddlestone Close blog for residents at the service, and she has been updating it without fail every day since.

The blog includes daily, easy-read tips from Billie to the residents, looking at health and safety advice and resources on maintaining good well-being, as well as things to do while at home. The blog also features thoughts and advice from residents on how to adjust in these circumstances, in case other residents are struggling.

Billie said:

“I thought it would be helpful to have all these resources in an easy to access place. I have resources from Hestia and other mental health charities, and tips from the local Council. I had a service user who self-isolated, so I spoke to him about he managed it, and then wrote a post on it. It’s a way for service users and staff to share with each other their knowledge and what is working for them, to help each other out and stay well-connected during this period. It’s boosting morale.”