The new year of 2020 began with promise. The industry I’d been in for over 15 years was developing well, and I was moving into a new role, new company, and excited about new challenges and possibilities. Contacts had been signed, start date set, farewells made with my previous employer and colleagues and that tingle of positive nerves had started to spread across my body.
The country was on edge, businesses had started to put a hold on all expenditure and redundancies had begun. Rightly my new employees were in that same camp, the internal struggle among management and total uncertainty meant that a week or so before the official lockdown, furlough scheme and my start date I got the dreaded call “Unfortunately because of the current situation we won’t be able to employ you at this time” it was like the preverbal ‘It’s not you, it’s me”.
Gut wrenched from my stomach but I can’t blame this new company, I personally wouldn’t have wished this conversation on anyone, however, I was in no man’s land, treading water in the limbo that is garden leave, what next?
Mortgage payments overdue, children to feed, bills to pay, even taking part in blessed Ramadhan, all while social distancing job hunting, in a market that was totally frozen!!
Now I realise I was not alone in this circumstance, with research suggesting taking the coronavirus has taken its toll on the economy and people pockets greatly. In fact, according to Mckinsey
Around 7.6 million jobs, or 24 percent of the UK workforce, are at risk because of COVID-19-related lockdowns. People and places with the lowest incomes are the most vulnerable.
Unfortunately, I found myself in the vulnerable at-risk group as out of pure necessity and partly out of sanity I fought off over 200 other applicants to a temporary position at the local Tesco Express. A small store perhaps but when there were thousands of people buying their essentials on a daily basis boy was it busy. This was actually great because although it was simple with long non-flexible hours, occasionally exceeding 60+ hours a week at minimum wage, it was also hard work, physically demanding with deliveries, lifting and being on my feet for 7 hours at a time, but it was so far removed from the calculated issue resolution and project management work that I was familiar with.
Not only this but there was also the perception that this position was a step down in many ways, and I am sorry to say this also included myself due undoubtedly to our common social conditioning of what is an ‘important job’. This conditioning has really been thrown into reverse now I believe in a world where we have all relied on front-line key workers (often doing what we used to perceive as ‘menial’ jobs) for our shared survival.
But essentially my role with Tesco’s for a few months allowed me to work alongside some truly humbling individuals, directly assist the obviously scared public and even having the opportunity to be there, at home to help support the homeschooling of my 9-year-old and 6-year-old, even though my beautiful wife (who is my rock) had it completely in hand.
It also offered me the opportunity to reflect, to ponder my existence, time to enjoy some of the tasks and things normally forgotten or taken for granted in an otherwise crazy whirlwind life I had stumbled into of commute, working, commute, working, sleep and repeat!
It was while working at Tesco that I was approached by an old friend, who it transpires is the Chief Vision Officer and Co-founder of Our Heroes CIC. We spoke about the overall mission of the organisation and some of the immediate goals, he asked if I would like to be involved in the project and spare time to assist.
I agreed wholeheartedly to join, as it was something I had grown passionate about having spoken to literally hundreds of people whose lives had been disrupted, turned upside down and interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. It was also beneficial having this experience, working as a non-emergency keyworker, because it meant that I saw first-hand and encountered that many people could get behind such a positive movement and what better way to help individuals, society and even future generations than with the plantation of Covid19 Memorial Forest.
What are the aims of the Covid19 Memorial Forest Fund?
The aim of the Covid-19 Memorial Forest is to create a physical way to mourn the loss of over 45,000 people in the UK alone. In so doing we hope to provide a way for our nation to remember the loved ones we have lost, but also to celebrate the unsung heroes, that have helped us all in our times of need during this Covid19 tragedy. By planting a Forest we believe that this is a fitting tribute and one that also helps fight climate change and protect the futures of our children’s and grandchildren’s generation.
As Salmaan will explain as we push forward with this project. We actually hope that this is just the start, using the Covid19 Memorial Forest to help celebrate how the world and cultures came together during this difficult time, to spread the message further in different ways. To help as many people as possible reflect and remember the positive side of human nature that we have all shown when faced with adversity.
I hope that you can also be part of the journey, help us sow those first seeds, water the vision and enjoy the space we create together.
REMEMBER | CELEBRATE | TOGETHER