Mums Army feeds Basildon Hospital's front line

Our 'Angels' work tirelessly for us so we cook at home to keep them fighting fit

Our NHS heroes are doing long hours, snatching food on the go, refusing to leave seriously ill or dying patients.

Mums Army - the home guard, are joining battle with our NHS ‘troops’ in their battle against COVID-19. They put their lives on the line for us, we fight from our kitchens.

When one ITU nurse Angelin Chatti decided she would spend her days off cooking for her colleagues and asked her neighbours if they wanted to help, the response was immediate. Posted on neighbourhood site nextdoor.co.uk, saw donations of food and offers to cook in an outpouring of affection and respect for beleaguered Basildon hospital staff from ‘Dads’ as well as ‘Mums’!

Angelin’s post on 7 April said' I am a nurse, working 3 days a week in the Basildon Intensive care unit. Considering the nature of 12 hours shift, started cooking hot food for hospital staff in my off days which was greatly appreciated by the hard working team. I am finding it's not easy for me to do shopping for ingredients, cook and deliver the meal to the staff. so I thought of asking for help to offer food to hospital staff through these difficult times. If you can help me with ingredients (like rice, pasta tuna and vegetables) will be much appreciated'. Donations came from many. Angelin was cooking weekends, until she was able to hand over to Rani Moorcroft to organise.

A core group were primary school teacher Noemi Luna Rami, NHS support admin Lynda Ireland (and friends) and Rani (retired civil servant and community activist) calling up the troops to help.

Lynda set up a rota with healthy pasta, rice, salads and fruit pots with five friends and catered for 30 on Wednesday and Fridays. Through her we got a crucial donation from Basildon Round Table to buy eco disposable containers and some ingredients.

Noemi did Tuesdays and Thursdays. Noemi had supported Angelin with shopping and cooking. Then switched to Rani when Angelin stepped away. It hasn’t been easy for this young woman living with others to cook and pack large quantities. She stepped back early June as Rani will help as much as she can and also seek more ‘reservists’ to step up on Tuesday and Thursdays so this more sustainable.

Rani says; ‘ My husband and I are no strangers to A&E; the last a 15 day ‘staycation’ in February for a fractured hip and suspected heart troubles, on top of his lung cancer (see www.david-rani.simplesite.com/). We are so thankful for the times they have saved both our lives with emergency treatment, it’s a small gesture to show our support’.

The couple have had to self isolate since the start of te pandemic as extremely vulnerable. As a former tv chef, and cookery book author with her sister Chandra Khan (under the name Tiger Lily sisters - Flavours of the Orient) Rani relies on volunteers delivering ingredients and containers.

And picking up and delivering to the hospital, which has seen so many casualties. As in other hospitals (although only 10% of the population is from a BAME background the NHS has 30%) a significant number of staff originates from overseas so curry and rice is often on the menu.

We asked ‘With all restaurants closed can our local businesses help out while staff are furloughed? Can we also appeal for PPE to keep them safe as this goes on and on?' Sadly we didn’t have a direct response though through the media saw some had done a one off.

We had other volunteers through the difficult months- Rowena Tucker with son Theo (6) baked and scrumptious flap jacks, cookies, cakes turned up. Her in-laws are all NHS workers, though not local.

Now (12 June) Rani (Thursday cooking) has Frances (who does hot meals and delicious sweet treats and cakes etc Sundays) and Katherine (Monday hot meals) as the main Army. It was a group decision that as the danger receded, furlough ended and a new ‘normal’ life begins the three of us will go on until we are confident our services not need. The letters of thanks continue.

Should we have a second wave we are geared up to recall our reserve army. Clapping on Thursday’s was a wonderful way to support our key workers and ourselves emotionally as we really ARE all in this together. But Mums Army show our love and gratitude for our local exhausted Angels by feeding them, also.

They told us they won’t leave their posts while so many need them – but are always hungry. If not in Basildon - feel free to use our blueprint and roll out Mum's Army across Essex, the country or even the world! Be careful to follow food hygiene laws on prep, cooking, storing and serving to keep our NHS safe - as we do. We ❤ you NHS. Our just giving website, now closed raised £300. We promised to ‘ feed you, and when the battle won we will fight to help build you affordable homes to honour the debt we as a nation owe every one of you.’ Our new motto is ‘we clapped, we cooked, we’ll build!’ That last promise is gathering pace. We need community voices to encourage Basildon Council to listen and work with us.

We work for our NHS heroes – will you? THANK YOU xxx please contact ramoorcroft@gmail.com for information or offers of support.

Be the rainbow in some else's cloud : writer Maya  Angelou