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Pompey in the Community: an interview with Claire Martin, CEO

So yeah I'm Chief Exec of Pompey in the Community, which is fairly grand for just to head it all up. 


So I think when lockdown was first called, everybody went into a bit of a panic state because obviously at that point nobody knew anything and everybody thought that the business was just going to stop, we're in schools, we do football, suddenly there was nothing. 


So the City Council contacted us via The Hive and said "are you in a position to help?" so we put a sort of business plan together over a couple of days to try and use our network of staff and our vans to support the sort of food response.


Then furlough was annouced, which was a huge relief and actually we thought you know what I can't afford to keep all of my staff on so we'll furlough them and ask them if they'd like to volunteer for the Hive. So they all signed up to the Hive and then suddenly a sort of big food response was born. At the height of lockdown I think we were delivering between 4 and 500 food parcels a week and a food parcel feeds a person for a week so that's a, that's a big undertaking.


It wasn't just food it was sanitary goods, it was, er toiletries, it was anything that people needed that couldn't get out of their home, so pet food became quite a big part of it as well.


During lockdown I found it quite easy to cope with. I think we were so, so busy trying to keep the charity afloat, doing the food response, working on several projects and I was so focussed I didn't have time to really think about it.  


I've found these last couple of weeks where reality has really hit.  We don't know when we're going to be able to get back into the schools, we don't know when we're going to be able to start football again.  I've got 40, 50 full time staff but we're more like a big family and I think that responsibility of trying to keep everybody employed, trying to find ways of keeping funding coming in,  it's suddenly sort of hit home.  I think lockdown was so quick you had to respond so quickly, having got the time now to really think about things, it's, it's bigger challenge, a much bigger challenge. 


For me the City just came together, it was heartwarming, it was exciting almost and a very special time and one that I think a lot of us will look back on quite fondly in a way, because of the way the City just rose to the occasion. 


Anything we wanted it was there, you'd pick up the phone and the answer was yes before you'd even asked the question.


Restaurants were closing they weren't thinking, oh let's just chuck it,  the phone was going every day, you know "we've got stuff that's come into date date can you take it?" "how can we help? we've got freezer space, how can we use it?" and everything was so joined up it was just phenomenal.


And now,  gradually people are beginning to go back to work, businesses are slowly opening and it's kind of been taken apart little by little, but I think underlying it all is just that community spirit is still there and we've just got to hang on to that, because I think in a way we've done the easy bit. Apart from those who are actually ill and suffering, I think we've done the easy bit.  I think is now is where it's going to get really tough.  With furlough ending, businesses realising the length of it and no real end. So I think yeah so now is where the challenge begins and now is  really, really where we're going to have to be resilient and pull together even more.  


I don't think we could live anywhere better if you need support at this time.  We've got the Hive and the Hive are just a first phone call that will refer people on, that will find help.  


There's lots of little funding pots that charities are digging into to be able to offer support.  So we're finding all sorts of little projects that are springing up in order to to support people.  There's people who are genuinely terrified still to go out of their houses, and we're finding ways of reaching them.   You know, the food response is still there but I think now it's more the psychological response, you know, it's tough and a lot of people who spent a lot of time building confidence to do things have lost their confidence. 


So, but I think living in Pompey, there's always someone round the corner, and you know you've only got to reach out a little bit and to find that, that support network is there.  I just, you know, have been so proud to be a part of something that has been so, you watch it on the television and the other reports and things... well we were doing that weeks ago and for it to spring up so quickly, we've just got to all hold on to it and be there for each other because you know, for the Third Sector, the charitable sector that we're in, you know it's seriously tough but there's always someone at the end of the phone and I think it's for people to realise that if somebody isn't coming to you, pick up the phone because there's someone there and someone will listen and there's usually an answer.  


*the play up Pompey chimes can be heard, sung by a stadium crowd*.

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