With how fast we are growing, I thought it’d be a good idea to start a blog – updated weekly – to keep all our amazing volunteers, suppliers, donors (and ourselves!) informed of what’s going on at DtCP. This journey has been a whirlwind, and one day we’d like to be able to look back and see how the story unfolded. So this is going to be like a diary or sorts.
So without further ado, welcome to the first DtCP blog post, which will become a regular occurrence from now on.
Key highlights of the week
- Launched our new volunteer portal
- Added the amazing Lyndsey Shelley to the team as a Virtual Assistant
- Donated 2000 masks from Medi-C
- Donated 4975 visors via Helpful Engineering
- Built partnerships with CityHarvest, The Felix Project, Gail’s Bakery, and MOJU to ensure regular food supply for the care packs.
- A massive company reached out to buy Project Happy Note cards for their employees
- BBC Radio 4 interview about PPE shortage released
- Briefing about PPE with 25 MPs and Every Doctor
- Delivered 94 care packs around London
Monday – May 4th
On Monday, I launched a volunteer portal to better coordinate volunteers as we are adding more and more opportunities, from volunteers helping us assemble PPE to delivering care packs. Prior to this, we were reaching out to volunteers directly who had signed up on our volunteer form, but the problem with doing it like this is this is very difficult to scale. We prefer all opportunities centralised in one place.
How the portal works is pretty straightforward. We aim to post all volunteer opportunities for the week every Sunday evening, and all the necessary details for each opportunity so people know exactly what they’re signing up for. People can sign up for volunteer opportunities they’re available for.
Volunteer opportunities are public and don’t require an account to access for now. Also, this portal is not perfect yet but it’s not meant to be. Minimal Viable Product, after all! This week, we had slots for 53 volunteers.
On Monday, we also added the amazing Lyndsey Shelley to our team as DtCP’s Virtual Assistant. Lyndsey has spent the majority of her 20+ year career as a PA at C-Suite level in law, banking and media. At Clifford Chance, she was the PA to two Global Managing Partners (CEOs) in a row. The first, upon his departure, recommended Lyndsey to his successor who subsequently asked her to remain in the role. She’s already been super helpful taking some of the increasing load off our shoulders, particularly around communication with volunteers! Check out her site!
And, Medi-C, a CE-certified PPE manufacturer also donated 2000 surgical masks to us, which we have sent to a GP partnership with 50+ GPs all around the country. The masks will be distributed amongst their sites where shortages are the greatest, as well as amongst secondary-line services like care homes and nurseries.
Tuesday – May 5th
On Tuesday, the amazing Aurelie Lionet of Makesense connected me with an equally amazing visor manufacturing organisation called Helpful Engineering. We had a call on Tuesday and hit it off immediately because we solved each other’s biggest needs:
- For DtCP, our biggest issue was finding a source of consistent PPE-supply. We have about 260,000 PPE requests and 24,000 visor requests from GPs/ hospitals/ care homes. But we were lacking enough supply to fulfill this many requests.
- For Helpful Engineering, their biggest issue was finding where to send their visors, and exactly where shortage was the greatest. They had tens of thousands of visors available, and the capacity to produce much more.
This was a perfect match for both of us. On the next day, Helpful Engineering sent us 2800 visors, and 2140 visors again on Friday.
We sent 2475 visors to two GP partnerships with 100+ practices, which in total serve a population of 775,000 people.
The remaining visors are being sent out this week. We keep track of all PPE we have sent here.
In addition to working with Helpful Engineering, we are also working with two other visor-printing organisations: Makers4theNHS and Sir Simon Milton Westminster UTC, and helping these organisations distribute PPE to where it is needed most. Please donate to them to help them keep manufacturing.
How do we know where to send PPE?
In short, we have precise numbers of PPE requested from ~350 GPs/ hospitals/ care homes, etc., an understanding of shortages based on geographic clusters, and priorities (e.g. COVID hot hubs).
What is this data used for?
In the long-term, it’s used for lobbying efforts to drive more fundamental changes in how this government addresses the PPE shortage crisis – see my interview and post in the “Thursday” section.
In the short-term, it’s for informing us where to send PPE we get from donations or from PPE procurement initiatives to plug gaps in the system.
For example, the reason we’ve invested time in working with visor-producing organisations is because visors are the #1 PPE item requested based on frequency of request (not absolute quantity).
The DtCP strategy on the PPE side has always been to serve as a central hub to link together various PPE-producing initiatives, whether it’s matching PPE donors with GPs/ hospitals or linking grassroots PPE-producing initiatives together. The aim is to magnify the impact of each PPE-procurement effort and help them do more than they could do alone.
Wednesday- May 6th
On Wednesday, we received a massive donation of the aforementioned Helpful Engineering visors, 2000 amenity kits, and 200 frozen meals.
What are Project Happy Note cards?
Essentially they’re thoughtful notes you can send your loved ones. Perfect for a time where everyone is isolated. You type in the message you want sent on our site, and then our amazing partner, Project Happy Note, will hand write your message on the card and send it to an address you choose. Sound funny? It really works!
Also, we have now built partnerships with CityHarvest, The Felix Project, Gail’s Bakery, MOJU, and more for ensure regular food donations for the care packs. We also now have fridges. Special thanks to Luke!
Thursday – May 7th
I have been working with Every Doctor, a doctor-led campaigning organisation fighting for a better NHS, for about a month now. As of today, over 119 health and social care workers in the UK have died from COVID-19. Amongst other aims, Every Doctor is campaigning for better PPE for healthcare workers inline with WHO standards, and currently, 95 MPs have pledged their support behind this cause.
On Thursday, I was invited to a briefing regarding PPE shortage with Every Doctor and ~20-25 MPs. Can’t say too much for now, but looking forward to using DtCP’s data to driving more fundamental changes in the PPE problem.
— EveryDoctor (@EveryDoctorUK) May 8, 2020
We also had some amazing volunteers help us make PPE!
Who knew feeding plastic sheets into magical visor-making machines and cutting 34cm lengths of elastic could be so therapeutic? Thanks @daretocarepack for letting me help assemble some PPE today (coming to a hospital near you) ???
— Lexy Hudson (@AceOfWords) May 8, 2020
Also, on this day, an amazing company reached out and is now in the process of donating $5000 USD to us to aid PPE procurement initiatives!
Also, Thursday is when we assemble all our care packs. Many thanks Steph for coordinating everyone at the warehouse for this!
Friday – May 8th
We’ve set up a recurring care pack delivery schedule every Friday and Saturday. This Friday and Saturday, we sent 94 care packs to people in need to locations all around London. The addresses we’re hitting each week looks something like this:
As you might imagine, this is really tricky to coordinate. We have to balance each driver’s driving time as much as possible, keep driving time within reasonable hours, factor into account where each driver lives, and get deliveries to each of the 94 addresses in two days.
Thankfully, to do this, I use a cloud-based route optimisation tool called Optimoroute. Their team has very kindly given us free access to their tool, joining the tons of SaaS companies who have given us free access to their services, including Slack, Airtable, Typeform, and more.
It’s without exaggeration when I say our driver coordination would not be possible without Optimoroute. Because of how much else we have going on, I can’t dedicate more than an hour at most in the entire week to planning the 94 routes – Optimoroute makes this possible because very little manual calculation is required.
This week, thanks to donations from various organisations, we sent our fullest care packs ever:
Saturday – May 9th
We had 20 amazing volunteer drivers sign up to help with delivers on Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately this week, one driver had to drop out last minute on Saturday. This driver was planned to make six deliveries. This happened with really late notice, and we were having serious issues trying to find a last minute replacement. We were initially resigned to the fact that we would have to do those six deliveries next week.
But out of nowhere, one of our amazing volunteers, Aubrey Thomson, offered to do those deliveries last minute.
Keep in mind we had all left the warehouse at that time. The warehouse keys were in Edgware. The deliveries were in Croydon. The warehouse was in Kentish Town. If someone was to do the journey, they would have to go to Edgware to pick up the keys, go to the warehouse to pick up the care packs, do the deliveries in Croydon, go drop the keys back in Edgware, and then go home.
Aubrey Thomson, you are an absolute hero. He drove 8.5 hours to ensure these 6 care packs were delivered to six people in need, and with that, we were able to complete 94/94 deliveries this weekend.
To ensure this never happens again, we’ll be implementing a system where we always ask for a few more drivers than we need as a backup, cause inevitably someone always drops out last minute.
Till next time,