How lockdown has defined Hive Portsmouth's invaluable work

When I asked the two chiefs of Hive Portsmouth what the organisation set out to do in 2018, both said they weren’t entirely sure.

Saturday, 17th April 2021, 12:00 am
The Hive team when it launched in 2018.

While the concept – to create a strategic partnership in Portsmouth consisting of a representative group of the voluntary and community sector, NHS Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group and Portsmouth City Council (PCC) – was set in stone, how it was going to work and grow was another question.

Vicar of Fratton’s St Mary’s Church, Bob White is also head of the Hive board. He explains: ‘If you asked us 18 months ago to describe to you what Hive was going to do, I think I would be honest and say we were still trying to work it out. Lockdown has, in a sense, defined the Hive and raised its profile.’

Hive Portsmouth is a registered charity, working hand-in-hand with PCC and the local CCG, to create and support a vibrant, resilient voluntary community sector and encourage social enterprise. But one of its priorities is to let the people of our city know there is help available to them. Louise Wilders, chief officer of Hive, says: ‘We knew there were loads of people doing fantastic work in the city and loads of people who needed their support so it was a question of how do we join the two.

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Martyn Pearce, from Pompey in the Community, organising food parcels . Picture: Joe Watson.

‘It was also about how to encourage people who have a good idea, passion or desire to provide help and support not to necessarily create something new but come and work with people already doing that.’

Hive compiled an online directory of more than 680 Portsmouth organisations which could help families and individuals.

During the first lockdown, the Hive team became inundated with volunteers, with nearly 3,000 people offering their services. In total, the volunteers provided more than £450k worth of labour. Bob explains: ‘Practically and logistically, the number of people who came forward was overwhelming. However it was not surprising from what we know about our communities – that there is a genuine desire to reach out and support others.

‘The generosity of spirit goes beyond the giving of time. I am not shocked at the number of volunteers who came forward, I am proud.’

Volunteer Sarah Lewis has been volunteering at the St James' vaccine centre since February.

To narrow down what exactly the Hive does and who specifically it helps is tricky because the list is far too wide-ranging to fit into this article. However during the past year, Hive and its volunteers were out on the streets delivering leaflets in their masses to let people know they were there to help, from shopping collections to essential transport services to appointments. Hive has organised 6,828 nutritious meal parcels for the vulnerable; conducted 15,200 well-being checks on the isolated and lonely; and delivered 4,593 prescriptions.

But Louise and Bob stress Hive could never have done it alone. Pompey in the Community; Victorious Team; Queens Hotel; Akash; La Casa Flamenca; Wild Thyme; Quattro Foods; COLAS; The Faith Community; Cultural Services at PCC are just a few who have provided crucial support and services.

Sam Brower, the managing director of Portsmouth-based food manufacturer Quattro Foods, says: ‘During the first lockdown, we had lots of food since hospitality had to close so suddenly and other businesses in the same situation donated food to us. We used the donations and created hot meals which were distributed by Hive volunteers.’

Sam, who has donated £22k-worth of food to Hive, adds: ‘I know for us and our staff, it was good for us to keep going and keep cooking during lockdown while making a positive impact in our community. I think Hive is a huge asset to our city.’

Volunteers from the Sudanese Community Portsmouth, from left: Bashier Abdalla, Arafa Ahmed Galaleden, Maher Deyab and Abdel Karim Hamad.

The city’s Sudanese community were offering help to primarily minority-ethnic communities and soon joined forces with Hive. Representative Maher Deyab, a taxi-driver from Portsmouth, says: ‘Food deliveries and donations is the main thing we organise but we are connecting with people, picking up shopping and collecting medicines. The Hive is great and the people are so nice.’

Jane Tume is the performance manager at COLAS – the company contracted by PCC to care for the city’s infrastructures. She joined the company’s forces with Hive and many COLAS employees were involved in delivering leaflets during the first lockdown. However Jane, 53, has single-handedly delivered more than 40 oximeters in the community. She says: ‘They allowed people to remain at home and be monitored by their GP instead of waiting in hospitals unwell. For me, volunteering was a no-brainer.’

At 63, Sarah Lewis decided to come out of retirement and volunteer with Hive. She says: ‘I wanted to be helpful.’

Sarah now enjoys regular shifts at the Hive admin office. She says: ‘We are keen to retain this incredible voluntary sector we have tapped into for later projects. There is such a wide-ranging skill set.’

From left, Louise Wilders, Alison Barnes of Sweet Cakes Southsea who donated food, with Catherine Ramsay of Hive.

Looking to the future, Hive wants to sustain the resilient and vibrant community sector. Chief officer Louise says: ‘I say community because those lunch clubs are vitally important because they signpost people to other organisations and boost mental wellbeing. We have to ensure that it’s thriving in the future because it is going to be more important than ever.’

Bob adds: ‘Whatever the future normal is, it won’t be the same normal as before. We can contribute to conversations about what a reshaped and reformed community will look like as we move into the rest of the year.’

An impossible thank-you list

There have been countless businesses, community groups and individuals who have supported the Hive which need to be thanked.

Bob White says: ‘There are so many people who have helped that haven’t been on any thank-you list anywhere because that’s just what they do. Whatever we try to capture in a list is only the tip of an iceberg.

‘At the top of the list would be the statutory services for sharing with us. It’s been a real partnership not just with our teams and chums who do good stuff in the community, but it’s been a real city-effort which goes right across the spectrum.’

Volunteer Jane Tume.

But from the bottom of Hive’s heart, thank you to all those who have helped the organisation evolve and care for Portsmouth’s communities. For more information, go to hiveportsmouth.org.uk.

An example of food parcels organised by Hive. Picture: Joe Watson.