Kathryn Hibberd-Little | Volunteers’ Week

Volunteers’ Week, which ran from 1 – 7 June, thanks all those that freely give their time to their community. We celebrated our staff, students and alumni for their work as keyworkers and volunteers during this pandemic. Our alumni, Kathryn Hibberd-Little, has made a particularly significant contribution.

Kathryn is a double Roehampton graduate, wife and mother. In 2014 she opened her own family run tea room, The Mug Tree, which has achieved and won multiple nominations and awards for their charitable work.

On the 16th March, Kathryn made the difficult decision to close the doors to The Mug Tree as the global pandemic began to escalate. As a team they altered their Mother’s Day offering to a boxed Afternoon Tea. When several customers requested that boxes be sent to their elderly parents who were isolated, it occurred to Kathryn that there was a significant vulnerable community within East Grinstead that would be struggling to keep themselves fed and stocked with mediation whilst shielding.

After speaking with friends who coordinate charitable groups and the chair of Age UK East Grinstead, Kathryn raised her concern with the local council. The decision was made to form an emergency hotline for vulnerable and elderly residents to use when they needed groceries, medicine or had any urgent reason that would cause them to break lockdown, and East Grinstead Emergency Action Group was announced the following week.

To date, the East Grinstead Emergency Action Group has helped over 300 residents, giving them and their families the opportunity to order groceries and prescriptions to be delivered to their door by a volunteer, replace faulty equipment such as a hearing aid battery or electronic wheelchairs, organise repairs on their property and develop friendships to combat loneliness.

Strict social distancing, reduced capacity in stores and queuing systems are a few of the challenges Kathryn and her team have been presented with during this crisis. However, with the help of the council providing them with name badges to access supermarkets faster and emergency medication within hours for clients, alongside two senior staff at the local Waitrose assisting with the coordination of collection before store opening, this has not only allowed the volunteers to reduce their own risk of exposure but allowed the helpline to help even more vulnerable clients.

The Action Group is now well known throughout the area, with residents referring their neighbours and businesses offering their support. As well as their immense gratitude to all businesses who have offered provisions, such as East Grinstead Lions and The Rotary Club, Kathryn especially wanted to thank her team of volunteers who have given their time to this cause during a period where it was more risky but ever vital to do so.

The East Grinstead Emergency Action Group plan to continue their efforts to provide assistance to the community and streamline their service for regular clients so they are able to free up the helpline for additional emergency requests. They are also considering the possibility of registering as a charity so that they can offer their support to the elderly and vulnerable community nationwide.

As such Kathryn and her team are on the hunt for more volunteers to help with tasks and even repairs, alongside businesses interested in gifting to their cause. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Kathryn on themugtree@hotmail.com.

We are extremely proud of all the hard work we have seen in our alumni community and particularly of the vital and inspiring work Kathryn is involved in and want to extend our gratitude, as we’re sure the East Grinstead community would to.

The University of Roehampton changes lives by helping our students to develop the confidence, knowledge and values they need for a successful and fulfilling life. We produce world-class research that helps us understand the world and change it for the better.

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