NHS Grafitti Milton Keynes
Eye-catching art at Unity Park

The Coronavirus pandemic has been truly awful and changed all our lives, but alongside the scary statistics and stories of devastating heartbreak there are moments that truly warm the heart, writes Sammy Jones.

There are none bigger than the impressive story of Marston Moretaine resident Captain Tom Moore who decided to walk laps  of his garden in a bid to raise £1000 for the NHS.

His gesture engaged the nation and money flooded in – an incredible £33 million pounds was donated, and he became a national treasure almost overnight.

But small acts of kindness are happening daily across MK; from families leaving pre-loved books and toys in front gardens for others to take and enjoy (and it’s a great way to recycle) to the many thousands of homes now sporting stuffed toys in the windows – part of a mass teddy bear hunt to engage children when they take their daily exercise with their parents. And let’s not forget the weekly ‘clap for our carers’ event.

Little gestures they may be, but they all have their place and are making this unprecedented time that bit easier to deal with. Businesses, community groups and individuals have all played their part. Here are just a few of them happening on our doorstep…

Michael Bird and his 3D printer…

Michael Bird makes PPE
Michael Bird has supplied thousands of face shields to those on the frontline

A lack of PPE was a terrifying reality for NHS staff and others in key worker roles as the pandemic took hold.

But in Milton Keynes, one man decided to utilise his 3D printers to make up some of the shortfall.

“I work in an office and my employer asked us to work from home. As my 3D printers were sitting there doing nothing, I decided to put them to use,” said Michael Bird.

“The 3D printing community around the globe had already started printing face shields, so there were plenty of designs available.”

Before Covid-19 Michael would test various printing materials for his blog (inov3d.net) and used his 3D printers to create models and trinkets.

Suddenly they were churning out essential pieces of kit for frontline staff.

The machines started whirring at the end of March and within a month Michael had sent out 3000 pieces of PPE. And his ‘work’ has been received far and wide: “I have supplied to Milton Keynes University Hospital, Northampton General Hospital, Willen Hospice, care homes, residential homes, funeral parlours, doctors’ surgeries, dental pharmacies and local ambulance services,” Michael told Pulse.

“I have sent some outside of Milton Keynes; to Scotland and Wales, and some have even been as far as Tenerife!”

Michael’s efforts have made a huge difference to those working hard to protect us, and his reward is simple: “It’s the smiles on faces when I deliver it,” he says, “I’m glad to be able to help. It gives me a great sense of achievement knowing that what I am doing is making a difference and potentially saving lives,” he said.

Michael is still making masks and will only stop when demand ceases.

The necessary materials don’t come for free and Michael has a JustGiving page to fund the cost of materials and packing supplies, and help get the shields out to those that need them. More than £2700 has been raised by kind-hearted people so far, but with the printers still churning out the masks, you can still donate.

Visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/3dprintedfaceshields

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth (AMYA) have also donated 2000 masks to the community; supplying everyone from nurses to food bank volunteers.

Businessman and member of the AMYA community Rafeeq Vadakkayil sourced the essential PPE.

Donations from AMYA
AMYA with one of their many donations

He said: “We want to ensure that our heroes have all they need to protect themselves, and show our gratitude for all they do,” and they aren’t finished yet – they now intend to source 1000 visors for key workers.

The AMYA has more than 30 volunteers working to support vulnerable people in the area – by shopping for the elderly, walking dogs for those who have been self-isolating, tidying gardens, making daily donations to food banks and helping the homeless.

Dylan Jeavons lights up his home

Simpson resident Dylan Jeavons decided to pay a glowing tribute to our NHS staff – with an illuminating display.

Dylan said: “I’m one of those geeks that covers their house in lights at Christmas, so when we were stood outside clapping the NHS that first week, I looked around at the house and thought, ‘I’ve got the lights, so why not?’

NHS in lights
NHS up in lights

“It took a while to knit it all together, but I’m pleased with the end result.

“It seemed a fitting tribute, not just to have the NHS up in lights, but to have a pulsing heart – the pulsing heart of our nation if you like.”

Skatepark artwork

New artwork appeared at the skatepark at Unity Park, by the old Bus Station in mid-April. It was simple, bold and certainly eye-catching!

Milton Keynes College

Students and staff from Milton Keynes College also stepped up to support the community in a variety of ways.

Donated PPE
PPE donated by MK College to PJ Care

Fashion and textile students have been making scrubs and wash bags for health workers, and the hair and beauty team donated a significant amount of PPE, while engineering and construction teams donated 120 pairs of protective goggles for Milton Keynes Hospital – again using a 3D printer.

The college has massively increased its online presence since the crisis began. Mental Health, Wellbeing and Performing Arts tutors have been sharing lots of helpful and informative video content to give people under lockdown something to do for fun and fitness. Other activities to engage with include dance sessions, and the sports team has been running regular digital PE sessions.

Students not normally able to access the internet were loaned laptops to help them stay in touch.

“Everyone’s trying to do their bit and the reaction of all the staff makes me very proud indeed,” said college principal, Chris McLean.

Starship robots
Starship robots are doing their bit to help NHS staff

“The way the curriculum teams in particular have worked away furiously behind the scenes to make sure every lesson still goes ahead as planned is really impressive. Nobody else really sees what they do but we certainly wouldn’t be able to achieve a fraction of what we are doing without them.”

That sentiment was echoed by CEO Dr Julie Mills, who added: “I always believed our people would step up to the mark in a crisis and I’ve never been happier to be proved so spectacularly right.”

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