Category Archives: Weekly updates

This is not goodbye, this is a thank you: Dare to Care Packages’ next steps

Hey everyone,

Three months ago, Dare to Care Packages was founded when we exchanged a WhatsApp message to support people self-isolating during COVID-19. After a vague “Yeah, sure, let’s do it”, off we went from there. Neither of us was planning on creating a COVID-19 response initiative and Dare to Care Packages began entirely from spontaneity, yet here we are three months later. 

We saw the problems COVID-19 was creating and rapidly began building the core components needed to maximise impact: from collecting PPE shortage data from GPs and hospitals across the UK; to identifying vulnerable individuals falling through the cracks of large scale charity responses; to building the right team with legal and medical expertise; to assemble a small army of volunteers, supporters, and donors. 

Since March 27th, we have been working tirelessly every day, and have sent >1000 care packs and >20,000 meals to the vulnerable people in isolation across London, and >17,000 PPE items to GPs, hospitals, and secondary-line services. Read more about our impact here: https://daretocarepackages.com/our-impact/ 

As shops are gradually reopening across the UK, lockdown is easing, PPE regulations are changing, the reason for why we were created is going away. As such, we are announcing that our last care pack deliveries for Dare to Care Packages will be this week. On the PPE-side, we will be shipping 10,000 of our last visors to Nepal as it is no longer possible to send them in the UK due to new governmental regulations, despite hospitals and GPs still accepting our PPE before this change.

This has been a wonderful journey that brought testament to the effectiveness of rapidly bringing the right people together and augmenting their skills through leading technologies. Three months ago, we started with nothing. As of today, we have a one-of-a-kind PPE shortage dataset containing shortage information brought before this country’s MPs, a 2-story warehouse containing tens of thousands of donated products when full, a team of 250+ volunteers, 30+ sponsors, dozens of press stories, and most importantly, validation from our beneficiaries: people who we have supported through the most difficult part of the lockdown – frontline workers, migrants and refugees, vulnerable women, immunocompromised individuals, older people, and many more.

Last care pack deliveries will go out on June 19 and 20. Our support does not end here. We will be sending a list of resources to our beneficiaries shortly for where they can seek further support with the help of our volunteers. With our remaining money, both self-funded and from donors, we will be using it for our regular recipients’ benefit in the form of a big surprise that will support them during this transitional period. Stay tuned in the next two weeks! 

For our volunteers, we will still have opportunities for you to help out during this challenging time,  including helping us prepare for our continued support to our beneficiaries – we will be in touch.

Finally, we want to thank the following people/ groups, whose support greatly enhanced our impact:

  • First and foremost, we want to thank Steph Cantor for joining the team on the third day of our operations and spending almost every day since then at the warehouse. Without a core member of the team on the ground, none of DtCP would have been possible. She has been putting in her passion, empathy, skills, and countless hours of effort coordinating the assembly of care packs with volunteers, sanitising products, and more. Thanks, Steph! 
  • Shoutout to each member of the team and their contribution here:
    • Richard Robinson, our Legal Advisor, who ensures DtCP remains legally compliant in an ever-changing legal landscape.
    • Lyndsey Shelly, our who has been organising and coordinating our communications with drivers, volunteers, partners and more.
    • Dr. Carol Chan, our Medical Advisor, who kept us up-to-date on the medical perspective of COVID-19.
    • Dhiresh Nathwani, who produced so much PPE for the NHS.
    • Luke Campbell, who supported us in sourcing our productions and coordinated our donations.
    • Katya Berez, who supported our fundraising efforts and communication.
    • Mingqiao Zhao, who supported our NHS donations and coordination.
    • Tamar White, our Food Health and Safety expert who helped support our warehouse operations and our care pack deliveries.
    • Aaron Fallon, who supported our care pack deliveries.
    • Kyle Soo, who supported our outreach and communications work.
    • Veronica Humphris for designing our logo and branding materials.
  • We also have to thank every one of our amazing volunteers who have helped to assemble packages, deliver care packs, deliver PPE, and sanitizing products. A big thank you to some of our volunteers who went above and beyond week after week: Aubrey Thompson, Christine Friend, the Rodney family, the Symes family, William McDonald, Zahava Lever, Kate Booker, Aurelie Lionet, Laila Ghaffar, Sheza Afzal, Jonathan Taylor, Steffan Lee, Jonathan Weitzmann, Katie Heward, Alina Khan, Benjamin Newton, Chris Collyer, Joey and Nigel Leskin, and many other kind individuals.
  • Thank you to our partners, Migrants Organise, Crossroads Women, YMCA North London, OneHousing Arlington, Home-Start UK, and other organisations who referred us to vulnerable people in isolation so we can maximise our impact.
  • On the tech side, we want to give special thanks to Optimoroute for giving us their services for free. None of our delivery coordination would have been possible without their tools. And, we want to thank Airtable for their generous COVID-19 support initiative; the PPE shortage dataset was built entirely on Airtable. We also want to thank Buffer and Typeform (for giving us free subscriptions.)
  • Finally, a big thank you to LSE Generate, and in particular, LJ Silverman, the Head of LSE Generate, for getting us the warehouse space from which we operate, providing financial support via a LSE Foundership, and publicising Dare to Care Packages via the LSE Press.   

Thank you for being alongside us in this journey. While Dare to Care Packages is ending, our commitment to helping people impacted by COVID-19 will continue. Stay tuned for what comes next!

Yours sincerely,

Jon Lo and Josephine Liang

Dare to Care Packages Founders

May 18-30: The third DtCP Weekly Update

Key highlights these last two weeks! Keeping it nice and short.

  • We delivered 200 care packs on May 29 and 30th, doubling the 100 care packs per week we usually deliver. We sent 97 care packs on May 22 and 23. 
  • About to send ~15,000 face shields to Nepal via Global Shapers in Kathmandu. 
  • In total, we’ve now sent 938 care packs (an equivalent of ~20,000 meals). See here.
  • Our PPE shortage data was featured on TechUK.

———————-

———————-

  • We’ve now rolled out the same data collection process for Nepal. 
  • Lots of improvements made to our delivery process, including automatically texting recipients to let them know their care pack is coming, and more.

This week, we had an unexpected guest drop by. Steph, in her own words, describes the encounter below:

“My favorite part of running the warehouse at Dare to Care Packages is meeting so many incredible people.

Someone from last week particularly stood out.

Our busiest days at the warehouse are Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday when we prepare and assemble the packages for deliveries. Every Wednesday our donated and purchased products arrive and our incredible volunteers spend hours sanitizing and organizing them.

Thursdays is packing day. We make personalized cards for each package and then put all the products into each package through a socially distant assembly line of high-energy volunteers (while we listen to my ridiculous playlists on speakers)!

Fridays we put the finishing touches on the bags; organizing them by driver and pick-up time, adding in refrigerated items, and leaving some time for quality checks. This past Thursday, as volunteers were coming in and out of the warehouse, I noticed a little dog running about. I soon saw the dog’s owner too and assumed the two were lost. Another volunteer and I asked if we could help the man and he asked what we were up to. We gave him the Dare to Care Packages “shpiel” and then he was on his way. The next day I heard some rummaging near the entrance. When I went to check it out, the same man and his dog were outside. This time, the man was unloading a giant duffle of food and essentials into our donation bin. He explained that everyday two nurses deliver food to him because they are fortunately receiving more than they need. This gentleman, in turn, is getting more than he can eat. And now he is donating the rest to vulnerable people receiving Dare to Care Packages. I spent the next few minutes (and probably hours) smiling! We’re all in this together. Doing a good deed and supporting those on the front lines, in this situation, actually meant that a vulnerable refugee with four children had enough food for a week. There are so many silver linings of being on “lockdown” and the craziness that is our world today and the incredible volunteers and people donating to Dare to Care Packages are surely mine!”

May 11-16: The second DtCP Weekly Update (101 care packs sent, and a £500/ week sponsorship)

Welcome to the second DtCP weekly update. Lots of new developments this week, from sending the largest number of care packs ever, to government regulation changes, to receiving generous sponsorships from amazing individuals! Enjoy!

Key highlights of the week

  • Delivered 101 care packs (approximately 2121 meals) on Friday and Saturday, our largest number yet. Each care pack was literally overflowing with food and supplies. 
  • Covered by the Associated Press, in Euronews, in German, Italian, and French.
  • Raised £20,144 on Crowdfunder
  • Received a very generous £500/week sponsorship from Theodore Schneider. 
  • Started collecting food surplus bread daily from Gail’s Bakery, lowering unit costs of care packs by 20%
  • Received a generous £2500 donation from Citrix Systems 

 

Monday – May 11th

One thing that’s been always been really important to us was ensuring regular care packs are sent to the same individuals to support them through this crisis. This means that one-off donations from food suppliers wasn’t enough – this isn’t predictable, and can leave us scrambling to find enough food for the care packs last minute. 

Both Josephine and myself have a background in environmental sustainability (actually, DtCP was intended to be a food waste marketplace originally, until we pivoted our direction entirely given COVID-19!). Food surplus being thrown away is a huge problem in London. For example, up to 50% of bread from bakeries is thrown away daily. 

This week, we started a partnership with GAIL’s Bakery, facilitated through a longstanding relationship between Josephine’s social enterprise DayOld, which redistributes surplus artisan baked goods to raise money for charity. Our team of volunteers collects bread from their chains around London and redistributes to those in need. We now are collecting daily. Monday to Wednesday, we redistribute the bread collections to a homeless shelter with ~95 residents, and on Friday and Saturday, we use the bread in our care packs. When we were buying bread from wholesalers, bread accounted for about 20% of the cost of each care pack. If unit costs go down 20%, we can significantly increase the number of care packs we send out each week.   

 

 

GAIL’s Bakery collections now join Fareshare GO collections, City Harvest deliveries, and Felix Project donations to ensure predictable food supply. More food sources to be added soon to enable even more scalability!

Also, we were covered by Euronews (via Associated Press) in French, German, and Italian. Thanks for interviewing us Stephanie Windler!

 

Note: these are translations, and I do not speak any of these languages!

 

 

Tuesday – May 12th

After a great crowdfunding campaign to kickstart financial support, we needed to ensure we’re sustainable in the long-run. This is so we can have certainty around being able to support the same people each week.   

So a few weeks ago, I set up a weekly sponsorship service, allowing people to sponsor our care packs on a weekly basis.

 

 

How this works is you enter the amount you want to donate weekly, and subscribe to the service (that you can cancel anytime).

Since then, we have received subscriptions from a dozen or so amazing individuals. 

This week, we want to give a special shoutout to Theodore Schneider of Blackwolf and previous owner of Breitling. We were very lucky to receive his super generous £500/ week sponsorship! 

 

 

This subscription alone ensures we can source, pack, and deliver ~100 new care packs per week, and we will soon be significantly increasing the number of delivers every Friday and Saturday. We currently deliver 100 per week. We’re going to double this number to 200 care packs next week (an approximate equivalent of 4200 meals per week – each care pack lasts one week, assuming three meals a day, meaning one care pack contains 21 meals)). Stay tuned!

 

Wednesday- May 13th

On Wednesday, two new regulatory changes came up that we needed to consider. 

First, London now has a congestion zone tax, effective May 18, meaning that most drivers in the congestion zone (pictured below) have to pay 11.50 per day (soon increasing to 15 per day from 7am to 10pm).

 

 

But this is a minor problem. Of our 100 deliveries, only ~7-8 are in the congestion zone, meaning we can either (1) subsidise one driver for the cost of delivering to those locations, or (2) in the long-term, switch to bicycles for delivering to addresses in the congestion zone. For this week, we’ll likely use the subsidisation of driver method, as our are packs are getting huge, and even one care pack will be too big for a normal bicycle (great problem to have!). 

In any case, delivery coordination remains just as easy using Optimoroute. We simply assign all addresses in the congestion zone to one driver (or multiple drivers if we are using bicycles), as below:

 

 

Second, there were major changes in PPE regulation. The UK government released new guidelines for small-scale PPE manufacturers which makes it illegal to donate PPE before passing certain 3rd-party verification checks.   

 

 

Our suppliers are in the process of getting these verifications, but until that is completed, we will unfortunately have to stop sending any PPE to hospitals, GPs, or care homes. 

In any case, we are now exploring donating PPE internationally. There are many areas in the world that are in even more need of PPE than the UK (e.g. slums, refugee camps, many developing countries, etc.)  

 

Thursday – May 14th

Every Thursday, Steph, our Operations Director has the super challenging but rewarding task of coordinating a dozen or so volunteers to assemble ~100 care packs. Each care packs lasts one week (assuming 3 meals a day), so we deliver approximately 2100 meals per week. This involves checking our order form for what each individual is asking for, lining up the care packs according to driver route to ensure efficient collection, and writing a personalised message on the outside of each bag for each recipient (it’s not just about food or essential items – psychological needs also matter).

This is what 101 care packs (2121 meals + essential supplies) looks like:

 

 

This week, thanks to the new recurring donations mentioned above, every care pack was literally overflowing:

 

 

  

Friday – May 15th

This week, we delivered to 101 addresses, our largest number ever!

Again, we have to thank Optimoroute, a route optimisation cloud-based tool, for making this coordination process super easy. To see what they can do, check out our first blog post.

Some feedback from our recipients:

 

 

Saturday – May 16th

On Saturday (aside from our weekly deliveries that happen every Friday and Saturday) we closed our Crowdfunder, raising £20,144 from 133 supporters, more than 2x’ing our initial target.

Special shoutouts to:

The Forsters LLP story is awesome. Zahava Lever, one of our amazing volunteers, began volunteering for DtCP a few weeks ago, and believed in our mission so much that she spoke to Forsters about what we were doing. Shortly afterwards, Forsters Charitable Fund made us a whooping £1000 donation! Thank you Zahava!

 

 

We also need to give a big shoutout to Jay Leblang of Citrix Systems, who put forward DtCP for Citrix’s Relief & Recovery Fund. Separately from the Crowdfunder, Citrix is now making a £2,500 donation to DtCP to help support our continued work. Thanks so much Jay!

This week, we implemented a system where we asked for a few more drivers than we needed as backups, so no problems this time, and 101/101 care packs were successfully delivered.

Till next time,

Jon

 

May 4-9: The First DtCP Weekly Update

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?

Well, we have collected and are still collecting quantity of PPE demanded data based on our request form. The anonymised dataset is display here.

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. 

 

 

The 200 meals have been delivered to people in need already. Thank you to UCH Logistics for the massive donation of the 2000 kits. The kits look like this.  

 

Also, the amazing Leila from Good Deeds Day linked me up with a massive company who wants to purchase a ton of our Project Happy Note cards for their employees.

 

Sloth

 

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.   

A week or so ago, I had to pleasure of being interviewed by BBC’s Andrew Hosken on BBC’s The World Tonight. A short snippet of the interview is below:

 

We also had some amazing volunteers help us make PPE!

 

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!

Great day!

 

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,

Jon