Another Answer Ltd’s Daska Emery AICB last year received a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours
This was for her excellent work helping to set up and run the Bourne End & Wooburn SOS support group from March 2020 to August 2021. Daska worked with her village to help set up a group of volunteers to deliver vital prescriptions and groceries to elderly and vulnerable individuals.
Using some Excel know-how, the Bourne End & Wooburn SOS group organised the hundreds of volunteers into different groups, otherwise known as ‘PODs’, enabling them to target the right people in each location.
Daska helped oversee the management of the group. Receiving the British Empire Medal is a testament to her work. On 11 May, Daska will also be attending a party at Buckingham Palace to commemorate her great work.
We recently caught up with Daska to ask how she set up the Bourne End & Wooburn SOS group and what the process was like:
Congratulations on winning British Empire Medal. What volunteering work did you do?
‘’It started when Covid was looming back in 2020. I and a couple of other people were on Facebook saying: ‘’we need to do something to help the community.’’
We realised that the covid pandemic wasn't going to be good for the elderly and vulnerable people shielding from the virus. So, about a week and a half before the first lockdown, there was a lot of people saying that they could help, but no organisation facilitating it. I’m a real organiser, so I found a free volunteer sign up portal.
I put it on Facebook saying: ‘’we will drive this if you want to help.’’ Quickly we had hundreds of people sign up, and the portal had lots of names. We asked for their road name and postcode, which meant that we had access to where they were in Bourne End and Wooburn Green.
We realised that we would have to organise people geographically to keep the process as slick as possible. We then asked people to put their hands up to become POD leaders. We had 20 PODs within Bourne End and Wooburn Green and each POD Leader was assigned approximately 5 – 15 volunteers depending on the number of roads they were covering.
Each POD Leader set up a WhatsApp group for their POD and communicated via this method. It meant that requests for help could be dealt with quickly. We had so many volunteers - we ended up having a reserve list of people who we used to replace volunteers who had to drop out from time to time.
My role was mainly on a crew of seven of us, and we were the admin team. It worked well because, without the planning and coordination, there would have been volunteers who were just running around without any focus.
We promoted our work around the village, with a phone number, a Facebook page, and an email address. People would mostly want prescriptions as they didn’t want to stand in a pharmacy queue with covid hanging around and nobody knew what it all meant. So, they were relieved that we would bring it to their door as safely as possible. But we would also get people’s food shopping and offer a befriending service for very lonely individuals who had no one nearby. I mainly did the admin side of things and helped deliver prescriptions.’’
Was your volunteering work difficult under the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic?
‘’It was. There was a moment where we didn’t know how serious Covid was, and we didn’t understand the ramifications of what would happen if you got covid. Sounding dramatic, but we did feel like we were going on the front line by always entering pharmacies and shops. But to mitigate the risk, we had a brilliant system with the pharmacy.
One of our volunteers became the pharmacy contact and went in with a long list of prescriptions to collect before the pharmacy opened. They would then bring the prescriptions out into a car park. The other volunteers on duty that day would arrive at the car park and pick them up and deliver them to the residents in their POD. It was such a great system and it worked brilliantly!’’
What was it like for the practice/your previous workplace when Covid hit?
‘’Disruptive as it was for every company throughout Britain and the world. The work at Another Answer did not stop though as bookkeeping can all be done online.’’
How did your colleagues and boss support you with the volunteering?
‘’I was working for a car showroom when this all kicked off (doing admin and bookkeeping) on a very part-time basis (15 hours per week) so I had plenty of time to complete my work and then assist with the COVID SOS effort. When I moved to Another Answer in July 2020, the SOS effort was in full operation with the army of volunteers sorting day to day requirements.
I wasn’t involved as much daily once I started working for Another Answer. If any Admin work needed doing, I would work on it during the weekends or evenings. Any prescriptions that needed delivering in my POD, I’d choose a morning slot and get it done before I started work at Another Answer.’’
Did you meet anyone from the Royal Family?
‘’I didn’t, no. I got awarded my medal by the Lord Lieutenant Countess Howe who is appointed by the Queen. She had a Deputy Lieutenant who read out my citation. So, I met dignitaries but no members of the Royal Family. But you never know, I might meet the Queen when I go to the garden party on 11 May!“
Do you think bookkeepers tend to be naturally organised?
‘’Yes, they must be naturally organised otherwise they are in the wrong job!
What inspired you to go into bookkeeping/work for Another Answer?
‘’I was looking for a new challenge and more hours – it didn’t have to be Bookkeeping as I wasn’t qualified at the time, but I approached Another Answer to see if there was a position and it was meant to be as there was a position to be a Trainee Bookkeeper and the Team were lovely, so I just wanted to work for them! In my opinion, if you are happy with the team of people you work with then the productivity follows.’’
As well as working well within the team of the Bourne End & Wooburn SOS support group, Daska is also a key member of the Another Answer Ltd team, who last year won the LUCA Award for Employed Bookkeeper/Team of the Year. Many congratulations again to the team and thank you Daska for your amazing work!