Laura Polley: ‘Volunteering Is Medicine For The Soul’

The pandemic has shown how we can pull together and give a helping hand when it’s needed. Many people have gone above and beyond to show kindness through these terrifying times and Laura Polley, along with her colleague Grace Nicoll, is one of those remarkable people. 

This past December, Laura and Grace took part in Shelter’s fundraising walk. The national housing charity recommends walking 3k, 5k and 10k… these fabulous girls walked 24km, roughly 15 miles, raising an incredible £800.

Laura explained: “I think rough sleeping is the tip of the iceberg, a lot of people in temporary or non-permenant housing are at a real risk of being chucked out and need charities like Shelter to support them and give advice. That’s why we decided to do it. 

“One of our donators suggested that he would double his donation if we doubled our distance so we agreed. We started at Felixstowe pier and ended up at the Coach & Horses pub in Melton, doubling our target, which was fantastic.” 

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Laura Polley, criminology lecturer at the University of Suffolk

In total, the walk raised approximately £800,000. For rough sleepers, this money means a roof over their heads, a warm bed to sleep in and safety from the streets, as well as helping fund the charity’s 24hour emergency helpline. 

Although the girls found the walk exhausting, especially in the rain, they pulled through and now the amazing duo are looking more locally.

Typically, the Ipswich Borough Council would in-still a protocol called ‘Severe Weather Protocol’ where, if the temperature dipped below freezing for three consecutive nights, they would have to accommodate rough sleepers temporarily. 

However, with the global pandemic still raging through the UK, the council no longer has the facilities to do this. Having volunteered at Anglia Care Trust for six years, Laura and Grace took things into their own hands when the council asked the Trust to help them house rough sleepers during the colder winter weather.

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Laura’s colleague and friend, Grace Nicoll

To ensure the Trust can help as many rough sleepers as possible, Laura and Grace and a few members of The University of Suffolk, where Laura works as a criminology lecturer, have pulled together to do the ‘Sleep Out to Help Out’ fundraiser this February. 

The team will sleep out in their back gardens, virtually streaming the event the entire time and anyone can get involved or donate. 

Laura said: “It’s nice to be nice. Personally, I’ve volunteered for so long because it makes me feel good. I always say to people that volunteering is medicine for the soul, its’s an amazing feeling to be able to help someone, knowing that you might have changed their life for the better.” 

The pandemic has meant that rough sleepers are at a higher risk than ever before and they find themselves without the support they had during the first lockdown as the ‘Everyone In’ scheme, in which rough sleepers were placed in empty hotels, has not been reinstated. 

Laura explained: “I would really support the government if they brought back the ‘Everyone In’ scheme, I think it’s really important considering that Public Health England have released a statement that everyone that’s classed as vulnerable should be shielding. 

“Our rough sleepers are at such high risk of transmission and are really vulnerable. In order to protect them, they need accommodation. It’s not possible for rough sleepers to stay at home, if the government can’t provide that and if they won’t provide anything to help with that then really what does the guidance even really stand for? They need our help and they need it now.” 

Many people have found themselves with a lot more time in the day so why not use that time to give a helping hand to someone who might be struggling or find themselves running out of options. Laura explained that it’s not always money that can help out a charity, but time as well. 

As Laura looks to future fundraising schemes, she wishes to say a quick word to all those who donated and got involved: 

“Firstly: thank you. We’ve been absolutely astounded by everyone’s support. We notice every donation, myself and Grace look at these pages every day and see what messages and donations people leave on our page. 

“Secondly: a promise. This money will be used to help real life people with real life problems. These donations are life changing so it’s always good to remember that these charities are going to put this money to good use, a donation could mean that someone gets off the street for the night safely and gives people a roof over their heads.” 

To get involved, donate to their Sleep Out to Help Out scheme here or sign up yourself. A small amount can go a long way, especially with the pandemic ongoing. Why not donate your time or money to a good cause this new year? 

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