This time last year, I was looking forward to an exciting year ahead. I was planning holidays with my wife, preparing for my sons forthcoming wedding, helping my other children with work and university, supporting our thriving charity, thinking how to grow my small side-kick business, and trying to get fitter. A new government was in place and, despite political differences, there was much optimism that the country would move forward. The world seemed a pretty great place to be.
What an extraordinary year. You don’t need me to remind you. But through this colossal and tragic shambles, there have been moments when the true spirit of humanity shone through. Captain Tom walked and inspired a nation, who then stood and clapped frontline doctors and nurses, who in turn risked their lives (and still do) to help get us through the virus. Hospitals were built in weeks, the world turned to virtual and online communication, and 750,000 volunteers, of which I am one, pledged to pick up groceries and prescriptions, or just listen to the problems of the millions of people isolated and scared. We stayed at home to protect ourselves and the NHS, and then just as the vaccine emerged and hope began to grow, the virus changed and grew in intensity.
We could have shut up shop, and waited for life to return to normal.
But the staff and volunteers at Bristol After-Stroke decided to act. They knew that our service users needed help more than ever, that isolation during lockdown could be significantly worse for our people. They took the entire service online, running Cafes, Physio groups, counselling sessions, one to one catch ups and providing encouragement and hope. They mastered technology quickly and became adept at coaching others onto video chats. They worked from home tirelessly in the face of huge challenges, despite themselves also coping with the situations their clients were. They raised funds to keep the charity solvent for its users. They sang, fairly badly in some instances, but raised over £3,000 and counting.
They stepped up when they were most needed.
I want to express, on behalf of the trustees, my gratitude to the team, and my brimming pride at being associated with each and every one of them. They inspired me during the bleakest year in living memory and they created one of the best years’ Bristol After Stroke has ever had.
As we look forward to 2021 in the knowledge that things can only get better, I can’t wait to see what we achieve for people in need in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset.
Happy New Year everyone
Volunteer & Chair of Bristol After-Stroke