Alison Williams named It's Good 2 Give Local Hero
Alison Williams – a Senior Research Nurse at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary - has been named this week’s It’s Good 2 Give Local Hero in recognition of the fantastic work she and her team of volunteers have carried out in setting up and driving forward the Rainbow Boxes initiative.
Whilst caring for COVID-19 patients within Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, NHS research nurse Alison observed first-hand the effects of isolation on those being treated.
With family and friends unable to visit, patients were being left with little or no basic toiletries or clothing. Moved to help these patients, Alison sent out a social media request for donations of pyjamas, toiletries and iPads to allow people to keep in touch with their families at such a difficult time.
The request went viral and the response has since been overwhelming. After setting an initial fundraising target of £500, over £15,000 of donations were received within the first 24 hours of the initiative gong live, including offers of support from Scotmid and RBS (amongst others).
The requests for these essentials from wards across NHS Lothian are growing. Alison has now gathered a team of professionals around her who are volunteering to organise the donations deliver them to wards across the Lothians, with more drop-offs planned in the coming days. However, the group have now confirmed that they are no longer accepting toiletry donations, complying with Government guidelines regarding unnecessary travel.
In getting them to patients in a safe and coordinated manner, it allows medical staff to focus on patient care, ensuring that wards are not clogged up with bags of donations. The initiative has been named Rainbow Boxes!
The inspiration and driving force behind Rainbow Boxes…
Ahead of being named this week’s It’s Good 2 Give Local Hero, we caught up with Alison who shared some insight behind Rainbow Boxes’ story and how the initiative has quickly gathered paced in the fight against COVID-19.
“After nursing patients in COVID positive wards in Edinburgh and West Lothian for the last three weeks, it was apparent that patients did not have very basic items like toiletries and nightwear. Families are unable to drop these into hospital due to a blanket visitor ban as well as being in self-isolation themselves,” explained Alison.
“So, just over one week ago, I put out a very simple appeal on social media for nightwear, toiletries and started crowd funder to raise £500 to buy I-Pad so patients could connect with loved ones at home.
“My house soon started to fill with donations after the appeal was shared. It was very clear that the public just wanted to help and this appeal has grown bigger than I could have ever imagined. The crowd fund now stands at nearly £24,000.
“The main focus of this appeal is to support patients as best as we can in isolation, keeping them in communication with their families and friends and providing some small comforts at this distressing time.
“We have chosen the name the ‘Rainbow Box’ to tie in with the movement from children across the UK putting up cheerful artwork of rainbows as a message of hope and solidarity for all. Our colourful trolleys will be supplied with toiletries, nightwear, chargers, reading glasses, I-Pads and other small items families would normally provide. The crowd funding money will help us replenish the rainbow boxes for as long as possible.”
And the rest, as they, say is history. In just over three weeks, Rainbow Boxes has a website, Facebook page (with over 1300 followers), charity status and even a shout out in Scottish parliament!
“This has never been about me and I am certainly no hero, the focus has always been on providing the patients with overnight essentials when their families couldn’t, all I did was highlight this need,” continued Alison.
“None of this would have been made possible if it wasn’t for my team of six amazing volunteers and a community coming together. Everyone has shared my vision and I’ve been really lucky to have the cleverest bunch of people running this project while I focus on my nursing.
“Our hope will be to first focus on COVID positive wards covering St John’s Hospital, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Western General Hospital. We will then concentrate on non COVID wards, appreciating that they are lacking these essential items also.
“This is very much still a work in progress but I’m so proud of what we as a team have achieved.”