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.


Wilson Komakech, Team Leader at Talgarth Road

Before coronavirus hit, Wilson was a Support Worker at Talgarth Road, one of Hestia’s Registered Care Homes. After the manager at the service had to start shielding, Wilson quickly stepped up to become a Team Leader.

In his new role, Wilson lead the team and managed rising anxieties around the virus, and worked alongside residents in teaching them how to do social distancing.

Then, at Harwood Road, another of Hestia’s Registered Care Home, two senior staff members had to go into isolation. Sadly, one resident at the care home passed away as a result of COVID-19, while another resident tested positive. The staff were increasingly anxious and frightened and needed stability and leadership.

Wilson became the calm, confident person they needed.

Wilson began working between Talgarth Road and Harwood Road during this period, providing both physical and moral support to the front line staff. He introduced stability to two services during a time of immense fear.

Cashain David, Head of Mental Health, said that Wilson’s presence had an “extraordinary effect” in bringing a sense of calm and confidence to the two services when the staff needed it most. 


Mark Newton Jones – CEO at Mothercare

Mark Newton Jones, the CEO at Mothercare has brought some much-needed cheer to the new mums at Hestia during this lockdown period. Mark and his team took on board the struggles faced by women who have experienced domestic abuse and modern slavery and generously arranged for a delivery of brand new items for mums and their babies across our services.

From moses baskets, to baby wipes, to bags of brand new clothes, this donation was a huge support for the women in our services - especially those supported by Hestia's Modern Slavery Response Team.

A large number of women who enter Hestia’s Modern Slavery Response service do so in late stages of pregnancy. Donations like this from Mothercare, mean that we can help them prepare for the baby’s arrival and bring some calm to the emotional storm they are experiencing. 

It is donors like Mothercare and the people behind the scenes who go that extra mile that have made lockdown a little more bearable for the mums in our services. Thank you Mothercare!


Laverne Forbes, Support Worker at the Lewisham Older Adults Service

One of Laverne’s clients has no family or next of kin in the UK, and so only receives support from Laverne and his external part-time carers. Despite the support team at the Lewisham Older Adults service moving to providing virtual support, Laverne has been going out of her way to support the client with shopping for essentials. Due to increasing pain in his knee, the client also began struggling to cook his own meals.

Laverne decided to help by prepping lunch and dinner for the client. While at his property she noticed that using the oven tripped the electricity at his property, so she told him to use the grill. Over the weekend, while Laverne was off, the client phoned her to say he had no electricity, as he had forgotten not to use the oven.

Laverne didn’t want him to spend the whole weekend without electricity, so she went to his property, sorted out the electricity, and realised the grill was also causing the electricity to trip. As this meant he had no way of heating food, Laverne went and purchased him a microwave and prepped another meal for him to have that evening.

She contacted adult social care to raise concerns around his needs and continues to work with them to ensure he is receiving the best care.

Natalie Purton-Jones, Team Manager at the Lewisham Older Adults Service, said:

 “Laverne has been going above have beyond these past couple of weeks and deserves to be nominated. This week Laverne has again done shopping for the client and continues to liaise with adult social care about his needs.”

Juliet Green, Co-ordinator at the Lewisham Older Adults Service, said:

“Laverne was able to offer reassurance and a listening ear, and she also ensured that the client’s environment was safe before she left his property.”


Marta Strejczyk, Bridget Little, and Robert Walsh, Service Managers and Team Leader at Hestia’s Modern Slavery Response Team

Marta, Bridget and Robert worked all day over the May Bank Holiday to deliver payments all across London to vulnerable clients in Hestia’s Modern Slavery Response service who were in urgent need of money. Marta and Bridget weren’t scheduled to work the Bank Holiday, but did so to enable other Team Leaders to enjoy the long weekend. Rob, who was on call, joined them in working relentlessly to make sure all the clients supported by the service had the financial security they desperately needed that weekend.


Barbara Allen and Sakshi Mehrotra, Administrators for Hestia’s Modern Slavery Response team

Since lockdown began, Barbara and Sakshi have gone above and beyond in working on a payment card project, helping to ensure people being supported by Hestia’s Modern Slavery Response team are able to access the money they are entitled to during this period.

The impact of coronavirus has meant their responsibilities have doubled, yet they continue to persistently deliver incredible support to the wider team and the people within Hestia’s service.

A team member in the Modern Slavery Response team said:

"Barbara and Sakshi's work on this project means every single service user in our service has access to their subsistence payments remotely, ensuring their safety and financial security at a time when they need it the most. What’s been outstanding is that they have taken on this gargantuan challenge whilst still working on all their other tasks."


DK, Hestia’s Senior IT Engineer

The current situation has moved many of us to home working. With home working comes digital working, and new and innovative ways of collaborating online.

Without the back office functions of Hestia’s IT department and DK’s support, often extending around the clock, many of Hestia’s new digital ways of working would have fallen apart. DK has worked tirelessly to support and train staff in new systems, to respond to new requests for hardware, and enabled us different ways of working like securing Freephone numbers for some of our mental health crisis intervention services.

Gayle Lowery-Jones, Director of Operations at Hestia, said:

“Nothing is too big or small for DK to help people out with and through it all he has done so with good grace and a sense of humour.”


Chai Kanchan, Performance & Information Officer at Hestia

After experiencing symptoms of coronavirus himself, Chai returned to work with the aim of building a report on the impact COVID-19 was having across Hestia’s services.

Working with data and information systems throughout his time at Hestia, Chai was able to put his experience into creating a complete and almost real-time reporting system. This has enabled all managers within Hestia to be kept up to date with how the situation is unfolding, with all the information around how our services are impacted being stored in one place.

Chai’s reporting system has saved his team an incredible amount of time and work, and has played an invaluable role in supporting all Hestia colleagues throughout this challenging time.

Paula Murphy, Director of Performance and Development, said:

“In late March as the COVID-19 restrictions hit, Chai was unwell and also found himself having to move out of his flat at very short notice. Nevertheless, he re-located quickly and set about working very long hours to build us a series of invaluable reports to help us strategically plan for the potential implication of COVID-19.  These include a system for mapping emergency staffing to cover high need services, a service user tracker to manage COVID-related incidents and a PPE management tool.  These tools have helped us to use evidence to keep all of us as safe as possible now and in to the future.  We are very grateful, Chai. You are fabulous.”

Veronika Kokina, Head of Performance and Information, said:

"Chai has shown immense dedication and adaptability in response to the need for  data to inform organisational approach to Covid-19. He quickly learned a new Microsoft Excel feature that allowed him to perform better data modelling and analysis and has been able to apply his new knowledge to the reports he built in response to the pandemic. By doing this, he laid the groundwork for future monitoring tools. Thank you, Chai, for courageously taking up new challenges!"

Vicky Okusaga, Service Manager for Hestia’s Wandsworth Rehabilitation and Recovery service

At the start of the coronavirus outbreak, there were several staff vacancies across Vicky’s team which she worked tirelessly to ensure were covered. Meanwhile, she continued recruitment and leading from the front as she covered the 11 sites across Hestia’s Wandsworth mental health service.

Vicky exemplifies The Hestia Approach and Hestia’s values. From liaising with Commissioners to obtain crucial PPE to covering shifts over the weekends, through the night and at Bank Holidays, she has worked incredibly hard to ensure the scheme runs as smoothly as possible.  She’s continued to demonstrate strong leadership and communication in liaising with partners in Wandsworth and recruited and imbedded a local management team, supporting new colleagues through this challenging period as they settle in. Recently, she also helped a service user with significant physical needs to move back into one of Hestia’s accommodation services, supporting the team to provide the 24-hour care he needs.

In amongst this, Vicky has even found the time to hang flower baskets at the services to improve their physical appearance for the people living in them.


Nick Martin, Volunteer at Hestia

Nick has volunteered with Hestia for several years, initially providing self-defence workshops for women across our domestic abuse services. Since then, Nick has partnered with Hestia’s UK SAYS NO MORE campaign through his organisation Stay Safe Global, and has worked alongside Hestia’s Family Fitness Programme to provide activity workshops to families living in refuges.

As coronavirus hit, Nick decided to volunteer to support Hestia through delivering essentials to our services users in London.

When a service user lost her money and bank card, she became in urgent need of support. She was unable to carry out urgent shopping she needed to care for her sick pets. The situation increased her anxiety levels to the point that it was also impacting her physical health.

Nick was informed at short notice, but because it was an emergency, he left his house immediately to help. Not only did he pick up the lady’s essentials, he purchased her some flowers as an act of kindness to help reduce her anxiety.

 As a result of Nick’s support, the lady has begun engaging with her Support Worker in a way she hadn’t done previously and has reached out for further support. Until this point, she had been unsure of contacting her GP to resolve her ongoing physical health issues, but after interacting with Nick, she did so the very next day.

The lady Nick supported sent a text message to Hestia’s Volunteering team, saying:

“Thank you especially to Nick who bought me food and some flowers. I am truly grateful.”

Clare Alagh, Head of Volunteering and Corporate Partnerships at Hestia, said:

“Nick is always supportive and keen to help as much as he can. Nick’s support had a real lasting impact on this lady he supported in particular.”


Amy Buchan-Symons, Outreach Advocate with Hestia’s Modern Slavery Response team

In addition to outstanding work in supporting her own clients, Amy has gone above and beyond in helping out the entire Modern Slavery Response team, taking on additional payments and card deliveries for clients across the service. Amy’s support has ensured that clients across Hestia’s Modern Slavery Response team are able to access the vital payments they are entitled to.

Since January, Amy has also been fighting tooth and nail for one of her elderly clients who has a disability and a problem with her mobility. The lady lives in National Asylum Support Service (NASS) accommodation and Amy has been campaigning to ensure her bathroom is fully equipped with the proper equipment to support her disability. This week, a shower stool and curtain have now been installed and the client can now shower with dignity again.

The lady said:

"“Amy is an incredibly caring woman who has done so much for me. Amy listens to me."


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 listeningplace.org.uk.


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.”