An app which mobilised volunteers to shop for vulnerable people in Lambeth during the pandemic is among the winners in London’s top responsible business gongs.
Described as an ‘Uber for volunteers’, onHand, which matches volunteers with charities in need of help, won the Lord Mayor’s Award for Innovation During COVID-19 at the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards.
The app launched in Lambeth, working in partnership with Lambeth Council, Age UK and British Red Cross to deliver shopping to thousands of elderly, vulnerable or shielding people in the borough who couldn’t get out during the pandemic, and is now running across the country.
Alex Adams, 52, from Bevant Road in Camberwell, is onHand’s top volunteer in the borough, having completed over 330 volunteering missions since signing up for the app in May 2020.
He has helped residents with activities including shopping and picking up medication from the pharmacist and is a befriender who phones a number of residents each week for a friendly chat.
One of those he has befriended is 80 year-old Walter Pepper, from Lambeth, whom Alex has even taken out on a specially made bike – the first time Walter had left the house since February 2020.
Alex said: “onHand has made it easy for me to connect with those living locally to give a helping hand.
“Over the year I’ve really built up some firm friendships, like Walter, who’s become an integral part of my life now.
“It’s not just shopping – I’ve sorted out his broken phone, arranged maintenance with the council and even celebrated his 80th birthday with him.
“Often though it does make you realise how isolated others really are. It’s kept me going through lockdown and has now become a major part of my life.”
The company is one of six winners in the awards, held every year by the City of London Corporation to recognise businesses which build strong community relationships, tackle disadvantage or inequality, promote inclusion or boost skills.
onHand CEO Sanjay Lobo said: “Lambeth were already working with Age UK, who were really stretched carrying out shops for hundreds of people every week.
“But demand was growing into the thousands – a tech solution was needed to bridge the gap.
“The feedback from the people we’ve been able to help has been fantastic – we’ve had people calling us in tears or leaving handwritten notes for volunteers.
“At a time when they weren’t able to have any physical contact, this was a vital way for people to have some human interaction.
“The success of schemes like this shows the huge amount of goodwill that exists across the UK.
“Winning this award is really humbling and builds on the incredible momentum building for businesses doing good and delivering profit with purpose.”
The winning schemes, which include an online tutoring platform to help children with their maths skills during lockdown and an initiative aimed at building skills in young people, were announced on Thursday evening at a ‘virtual’ awards ceremony.
Lord Mayor William Russell said: “This extraordinary year has presented enormous challenges for individuals and organisations across London and the UK, and has highlighted more than ever the important role businesses can play in working for the benefit of their communities.
“I was really impressed with the innovative, creative and impactful ways companies like onHand, which have themselves faced difficult times during the pandemic, have given their time and effort to help make a positive impact on people’s lives.”
This year’s awards were organised for the first time by Heart of the City, the City Corporation-funded charity which supports hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises with their responsible business programmes.
The awards are part of the City Corporation’s commitment to work in partnership with businesses, charities and neighbouring boroughs to create a more responsible, inclusive and competitive London.
More information, along with videos of all the award-winning schemes, is available at www.dragonawards.org.uk
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