As our nation perseveres against Covid-19, we find ourselves leaning not on the powers that be, but on ordinary people and their extraordinary strength and kindness. From NHS staff to shopkeepers, teachers and train drivers, these are the front-line workers we’re proud to call our own.
Narguis Horsford, Train driver
Narguis Horsford, has worked for Transport for London for 10 years and driven London Overground trains for the past five. She lives alone in Bounds Green, north London.
“I am based at a depot in Willesden Junction, north-west London. I drive two routes: Stratford to Richmond/Clapham Junction and also Gospel Oak to Barking.
The night before work, I prepare my uniform, double check my schedule and I ensure I get a good night’s sleep. I have to set my alarm pretty early to get into work. Sometimes it can be 1.30am in the morning, but it gives me such a rewarding feeling.
When I arrive for work, I book on for my shift and read the notices for information that may affect my day, such as weather conditions, speed restrictions or engineering works.
Once I’m in the cab, I perform my checks. Once in service, depending on the length of the routes I am scheduled to work on, I drive the train for approximately three to four hours before being relieved for my break. Then it’s back out for two to three hours of driving before the end of my shift. Every journey is different, and I always have to remain focused and be prepared to react to any situation or incident.
I am no hero, but I’m proud of being a train driver and the essential role we are playing during the coronavirus crisis. Our services are vitally important to keep London moving throughout these unprecedented times and maintaining safety, to ensure our key workers can get to where they need to be to provide the services that are required.
We have seen a tremendous amount of community spirit, acts of kindness and unity throughout this pandemic. People have been smiling more at me and I’ve received a few thank yous! I remember one morning at Barking as I was changing ends, a lady smiled at me and said: “Thank you, driver”. I smiled and said “You’re welcome”. I felt such a sense of pride.
I don’t feel anxious about going to work, but I still have to distance myself from my family because, obviously, I’m out here and I’m on the front line. They do worry, especially my grandmother. This has certainly shown us that life is short. And we can’t take anything for granted. I can’t see myself doing anything else.”
Rachel Millar, Midwife
Rachel Millar, 24, has worked as a community midwife at Homerton Hospital, in east London, for almost three years. A fascination with pregnancy and birth was sparked early, when, growing up on a farm in Northern Ireland, she witnessed her grandparents doing lambing season every year. She lives in Leyton with one of her best friends.
“Every week is different. I could be doing night shifts in the birth centre, antenatal clinics seeing women throughout their pregnancies, or postnatal home visits – checking in on couples who have recently left the labour ward with their newborns. I also do on-calls for the home birth team which last 24 hours (from 8am to 8am the following day). I just love being with the women in this really special time in their lives.
One of the hardest moments for me during the pandemic was when I had my bike stolen. If you’ve ever watched Call the Midwife, you’ll know the importance of two wheels to an east London midwife, especially when we’re desperately trying to avoid public transport. Having to carry on working for the rest of the week, maintain good morale, and be that reassuring voice to worried parents was made slightly more difficult.
But, within a few hours, a friend who also works at Homerton Hospital had raised over £500 online to help get me back on the road. Another colleague tweeted the story and within an hour, a local company had donated a brand new electric bike. It’s just one example of the community support and kindness that I’ve seen over the past few months, and what initially drew me to work in Homerton Hospital and the surrounding area. To say that I’m proud of my work family, and my wider community’s response to this pandemic, is an understatement.
This October, I’m hoping to run the London Marathon, [postponed in April due to the pandemic] and continue to fundraise for Sands (Stillbirth and neonatal death charity), to show my appreciation for its incredible work supporting bereaved families, especially in such an isolating and lonely time.
After the 8pm clapping and free meals fade, I hope that the NHS won’t be forgotten. We will be busy rebuilding and restoring from a time of huge upheaval. To resume to “normal” would be a step in the wrong direction. Hopefully, this pandemic will bring about positive change and a new and improved normal, for NHS staff and service users alike.”
Anisa Omar, supermarket assistant
Anisa Omar, 21, has worked as a supermarket assistant at the London King’s Cross branch of Waitrose for a year. She lives in Islington with her parents and three siblings, and is currently in the second year of a Business Management degree at university.
“Since I started at Waitrose, I’ve been on the tills. Recently, I’m on Rapid, which is a delivery service that provides for people who want quick items. So I’ve been doing people’s shopping for them, wrapping it up, and then we give it to a courier to take to the people’s houses.
When the lockdown was announced, I felt like I just had to go in and do my job. I have felt slightly anxious, but, honestly, that’s because we’re in a pandemic now – people are just more on edge. You’re putting yourself at risk by being at work, but it’s worth it because you’re helping people. If you show in your face you feel some type of way about the pandemic, it shows to customers. If I can put a smile on someone’s face because I’m smiling, that’s amazing for me. That’s all I need.
I feel quite safe at work. I’m following government guidelines, keeping my distance, wearing my gloves, making sure I keep my distance with customers, and that they’re obviously a safe distance away from me as well.
Before the pandemic, people would look at us as service assistants – we’re there to show them where the eggs are or if they want to complain about something. But now they’re a lot more understanding. They understand that we’re here all the time, and they don’t have to leave their houses. People are a lot nicer, they’re warmer.
It’s nice being a key worker. My job was not something that was that big of a deal before. But now it’s like we’re important. We have to be here, regardless of what’s happening in the world. It’s more than just a job now.”
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