Image: Jack Carlisle, left, with Chris Ogunsola and Harrison Dark

By Joseph Pelan

An online community helping to connect vulnerable people with volunteers has been launched to offer support for those left isolated amidst a UK-wide lockdown. 

CoronaBuddy was launched by Harrison Dark, Jack Carlisle, and Chris Ogunsola – three friends who feared that those in the ‘at risk’ category, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, were potentially being left without means to acquire essential items such as groceries, prescription medicine, or just another person to speak to. 

“My girlfriend was concerned about her elderly nan who lives away from all of the immediate family. She was thinking how is she going to get out of the house and do things because obviously she should not be leaving the house because she is in the vulnerable group,” said Harrison.

“And it sort of led me down this path of how can we connect people like my girlfriend’s nan and people who need help in this situation to local volunteers. That’s essentially where the idea stemmed from.”

Harrison, an emergency services worker on the frontline of the pandemic, along with Mr Carlisle, a software developer from Northern Ireland, and Mr Ogunsola, a financial service consultant, set up the not-for-profit group which allows volunteers to sign up for tasks which others might be prevented from doing themselves due to age or mobility. 

“Essentially when you create a profile as a volunteer you can specify tasks that you are happy to complete, for example; grocery shopping, posting a letter, walking a dog, baby sitting, a friendly phone call or picking up a prescription. You tick what you are happy to do and you tick whether you have a car or not.

Security verification of volunteers is supported by US tech company Jumio, which requires users to upload a photo ID to the system. It uses facial recognition technology to verify their identity.

“We’ve teamed up with them to ensure that every volunteer we have on the platform is verified and we’ve got all of their details. Hopefully that will deter anyone from taking advantage of the situation,” added Harrison.

The website also uses the Government Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks which are split into three categories basic, standard and enhanced depending on the tasks selected – such as collecting prescription medicine or babysitting.

The team has been subsequently joined by Dr Mike Rafferty who has previous experience scaling up successful large tech projects having co-founded Induction App.

The app is used by healthcare professionals to connect with each other across the NHS.

CoronaBuddy is not the only community platform that connects volunteers with those in need of support. The NHS has launched the GoodSam app.

Harrison said their online community is aimed at complementing the NHS’s platform.

“We’re essentially a group of friends that have launched a product to try and connect people. You may be a volunteer but next week you might need help because you may have symptoms and you have to self isolate. It’s about connecting communities in this difficult time.”

• For more information about CoronaBuddy or those interested in volunteering visit their website at 
https://www.coronabuddy.co.uk

 
Donation - 60th edition of VIEW magazine

Make a donation to support our 60th edition, any amount would be more than enough, thank you.