Boy, 14, enlists army of volunteers to help the vulnerable isolating from coronavirus

A 14-year-old from Malmesbury in Wiltshire, is leading an army of volunteers to assist vulnerable people in isolation.

Ben Thornbury, 14, set up the ‘coronavirus advice and support’ website in March to help volunteers get food and prescriptions delivered to those less able.

Ben decided to use his expertise from building his own personal site to create the support service.

He said his motivations for the site stemmed from noticing that there was no system in place in his local town of Malmesbury.

He told Oh My Goodness: “We get quite a lot of old residents here in Malmesbury, and at the time there was no system in place for them to get food and prescriptions delivered. So how were they meant to do that if I hadn’t used my own personal skills to create a website, they wouldn’t have had nowhere to go at the time.”

The site, which pairs people willing to help with those who need help getting essentials, has since reached 65 volunteers.

One particular family was extra thankful for the help made easily available by Ben.

The family from London got in contact with Ben to say they have relatives that live locally in Malmesbury who needed help getting some food.

That’s when Ben got in contact with his volunteers to help right away.

“Since they couldn’t come down from London cause that would take hours [and with lockdown] they just asked me if I could help and once I did they thanked me a lot afterwards because I got them the help they needed,” he said.

He is helped by his neighbour, Julie Taylor, 61, who regularly converses with him on how many volunteers have signed up.

Julie told Oh My Goodness: “Myself [and] Ben did not expect that many people to sign up especially for a small town like Malmesbury, Wiltshire. Ben was expecting 10 volunteers to be honest but when he posted it on our local Facebook group and our local newspaper picked up on it so many [were] coming through.”

The neighbours struck up their friendship a few years ago when Ben offered to mow Julie’s lawn and help her on her computer. Since then, the pair have “worked so well as a team” as Julie accompanies Ben to local council meetings and keeps track of how the advice and support website is doing.

The two neighbours, Julie (left) and Ben (right) have been friends for years after Ben offered to mow her lawn. (Analeise)

Before isolation was brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Ben was a focal part of the local community. He has a volunteer group which regularly holds litter picks and he had purchased over 200 tree seeds ready to be planted in the area, but since lockdown was brought in, that idea was pushed back.

Instead, the tree seeds remain in Julie’s garden, ready to be planted when lockdown measures are eased.

Julie added: “Ben came to me and said he’d ordered 225 trees and I was thinking, where are we going to plant all these trees.

“Since the event sadly got cancelled, all that hard work Ben had put into that big day came to nothing. So, I’ve [currently] got 225 trees in my garden at the moment, in my potato patch! Myself and Ben work so well as a team.”

While Ben set up the website and regularly communicates with the volunteers he has enlisted, he doesn’t shy away from appreciation of the help offered by his neighbour Julie (left). (Analeise)

While it is difficult to think about moving forward with the current situation, Ben said he still plans to plant the trees and do a “massive clean of the town” when the lockdown eases.

The school boy, who helps residents on computers during his spare time, believes that young people could do more to help out.

He added: “It’s all about young people playing their part towards helping others because they don’t know when they might need that help in the future.

“I just want to help others out and get others to help people.”

The pair are well known in the town of Malmesbury, and with the teenager getting as many as 300 calls last month to help those more vulnerable, once a sense of normality returns, the help of the 14-year-old during this time of crisis will not be forgotten.

On this day…

In 1493…  Pope Alexander VI divided the New World between Spain and Portugal along the Line of Demarcation.

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