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West Norfolk military charity sets up 'Operation Mirror' for veterans during cororonavirus



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Bridge for Heroes has adapted its services to provide support for armed forces veterans and their families during the lockdown.

An operation has been launched called Operation Mirror, with planning starting a month ahead of the coronavirus outbreak spreading in the UK.

Operating in West Norfolk over the past 10 years, Bridge for Heroes made the decision not to furlough staff but rather to innovate their services to provide crucial support.

Bridge for Heroes volunteer Hannah Norwood is ready for a visit to a low-risk household. Picture: Bridge for Heroes
Bridge for Heroes volunteer Hannah Norwood is ready for a visit to a low-risk household. Picture: Bridge for Heroes

As part of Operation Mirror, staff are providing phone support, house visits carried out by highly trained and equipped response teams, as well as supply drops to those in isolation.

The charity has also introduced a Veterans Community Channel, which provides free news, advice and other information about Operation Mirror.

Video conferencing and remote activities are also being provided to military personnel during lockdown.

John Ringer, a member of staff at Bridge for Heroes as they step up Operation Mirror during the coronavirus. Picture: Bridge for Heroes
John Ringer, a member of staff at Bridge for Heroes as they step up Operation Mirror during the coronavirus. Picture: Bridge for Heroes

Activities include live cookery workshops, art lessons, religious activities and mindfulness.

A spokesman said: “The model combines our extensive experience in support services, integrated with specialist training and the adaptability of being able to carry out house visits, with our teams following infection prevention and cross-contamination procedures.

“The Operation is highly diverse and flexible, responding to the needs of the beneficiaries at the current state.”

Bridge for Heroes state that it aims to “ramp up” their services gradually as they respond to demand.

There is an anticipated capacity to support more than 1,000 beneficiaries every month.

Bridge for Heroes founder Mike Taylor said: “At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic we as the Bridge for Heroes had a choice, like the majority of other businesses and charities in the region to shut down operations and furlough our staff.

"But very quickly we identified that this was simply not an option, leaving our beneficiaries to fend for themselves.

"We felt that we had a moral responsibility to continue providing support to our beneficiaries and as such quickly began developing Operation Mirror to shift our operations to specialist outreach and the provision of remote social interactions.

“Our priority during this crisis is to look after our beneficiaries, and more importantly, provide critical support to those most vulnerable in these testing times.”

Parkrun volunteer and former Armed Forces serviceman Gary Walker has been helping having been asked by Mr Taylor.

Mr Walker said: “It’s all been designed on what we learnt in the military about how to operate in a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiation, Nuclear) environment, and in true military fashion its all been documented with orders and procedures.

"They have done a lot of work in reorganising the Contact Centre so it is no longer for ‘drop in’ but is a sterile ‘Command Centre’ from where teams of volunteers all equipped with PPE can go out to help anyone who requires it, in particular covering well-being and mental health issues but up to including providing food parcels and hot meals, all properly approved and organised."



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