In 1975, there was a dream to open a hospice on a hill in Havering-atte-Bower. Betty Hollinrake's fundraising helped that vision become a reality in 1984. Fast forward to 2020, and Betty is still supporting Saint Francis Hospice — at 90 years young.
As a physiotherapist at the now-defunct Oldchurch Hospital in Romford, Betty kindly gave up her free time to help our patients, whose movement had been affected by a life-limiting illness.
From a tea lady to a patient driver — Betty hasn't stopped volunteering for us since. She's also been prolific in sewing cloth bags for our patients. Many of them use syringe drivers to deliver pain relief medication at set times around the clock. Betty's bags allow them to pop the drivers away discreetly, and go about their day without drawing attention.
"I want to feel like I'm still useful," Betty said. "You never know when you or someone you know may need this marvellous Hospice. If that time comes, I'll be happy knowing that I've done my bit."
Betty's talents don't stop there. She's also a dab hand at poetry and has penned this rhyme to reflect the current times:
In the year 2020, the world was overtaken;
By a virus from China that was deadly and left everyone very shaken.
It was spread by breathing droplets from someone with the disease;
It affected the lungs and caused coughing and made it harder to breathe.
Every country issued strategies to deal with the problems of all;
"STAY AT HOME, PROTECT THE NHS, SAVE LIVES" was the call.
"Close shops, businesses, offices, work from home" was the instruction;
Flights, trains, public transport were affected, causing massive disruption.
But supermarkets all stayed open, making sure the nation was fed;
With meat and fruit and vegetables, and of course everyone's 'daily bread.'
Everyone missed the hairdressers who were essential to keep us 'in form';
So all our hair became longer, with new styles becoming the norm.
Mass unemployment was rife, which caused heartbreaking deprivation;
Food banks were essential for families so as to avoid mass starvation
If you caught the virus you'd likely die, thousands were dying each day;
In spite of the excellent care you received from the NHS in every way.
It was also heartbreaking to see families unable to say goodbye;
To their loved ones who were all so ill, and just waiting to die.
All 'over seventies' were not to go out, stay at home whatever the weather;
No restaurants, theatres, football matches at all, no large groups together.
Care homes were seriously affected, no family or friends could call;
Which was distressing for the families who followed the rules for all.
If you went out you must stay two metres apart causing long queues outside;
The supermarkets' customers waited to purchase the good things they found inside.
Hundreds of workers were unemployed as firms were starting to fold;
There were no orders they had to fulfil, and no prospects as of old.
World politicians and scientists worked very hard to find a solution;
An enormous task finding vaccines for all, but they made a great contribution.
Schools were all closed, exams were cancelled, teachers were feeling the strain;
Students were sad and frustrated that all their hard work was in vain.
But they studied at home, still working hard keeping up with their education;
Teachers helped them all to make up their work, avoiding their frustration.
Those living alone were the saddest of all, with no family support close at hand;
Neighbours and friends gave lots of help — they were a 'stalwart band.'
Eight o'clock was the time each Thursday, we all went outside to clap;
The NHS who worked so hard, to help all who 'fell in their lap!'
Nothing would ever be the same, the world has changed forever;
New skills would be learned with nothing left of the old life whatsoever.
With so many not earning wages, their savings had disappeared;
No prospect of buying their own home was something they'd always feared.
But things began to get easier, with small groups being allowed;
With distancing still to be followed, and not too large a crowd.
The only prospect on the horizon of being normal once more;
Was mass testing and vaccination t'was the only way to be sure.
That you did not have the virus and were safe to see all those you know;
And return to your normal lifestyle, which ended a long time ago.
Many will say "Where is God in all this?", but He never leaves us alone;
He sends His angels to help us, many out of their 'comfort zone.'
Family and neighbours, strangers too, so many answered His call;
To help His people with problems, His angels answered them all.
So as Christians we all give thanks to God for His blessings every day;
For His guidance and comfort as each day is done, so that we all can say
"Thank God for the faith that keeps us all happy and smiling together;
To work through this critical time in the world that we will remember forever."
— Betty Hollinrake, 2020