Actor Julie Hesmondhalgh has set up a Facebook fundraising group which is handing out £500 to the most desperate and deserving.
Julie, who recently starred as a special needs teacher in the BBC drama series The A-Word and was well-known as Hayley Copper in Coronation Street is currently filming in Cardiff for a six-part thriller, The Pacts.
“I count myself very lucky to be working at the moment because Covid has decimated my industry,” she says.
Julie’s also missing her mum who is shielding and has lost people to the virus this year. One was her former teacher from Accrington College in Lancashire. She’s also supported friends who have lost parents during the pandemic, or who are suffering the after effects of the disease.
She took time out of her busy schedule to speak to The Best Life Project about why she set up 500 Acts of Kindness, a group where people donate a pound a week to give £500 to a person, family or organisation in need.
She says: “It’s a brilliant idea but it’s not mine. Joe Sims, the actor in Broadchurch, set up the first of these groups called 500 Reasons. That is a very slickly run organisation and they give out £500 a week.
“I was part of that group and I was a pain in the arse because I kept nominating people. So Joe said ‘why don’t you set up your own’. So I did. That was two years ago.”
The group has grown and grown and this year has given away just over £40,000. But the need during lockdown is increasing.
“Several of our members work either in social care or social housing so we get a lot of nominations via them which is absolutely brilliant, straight from the frontline so we’re helping people who are really struggling.
“The absolute joy of it is that people can’t believe it when we give them money. This week we helped one organisation and three individuals. One was a single dad who had split up from the mum and his son was coming to visit him for the weekend. He had no money for electricity, no credit on his phone and he’d gone without food all week. So we gave him the money to pay his electricity bill with something over to treat his son.
‘We are a sticking plaster on a gaping wound, but at least we’re doing something’
“Another single dad was in the position where the mum had died and the kids were in temporary foster care while the family were sorting themselves out. He was getting a house ready for them and he had no carpets.
“People can’t believe it because they’re so used to going through this Dystopian rigmarole to get a few pence, which is only what they’re entitled to, so for us to say ‘here you go we’ll transfer the funds today’ it’s unbelievable. And the wonderful thing is that some, once they’ve got themselves sorted, join the group to give back. That’s always extra special.”
Julie says she really wishes that there wasn’t a need for such groups, particularly as the UK is the sixth richest nation in the world.
“The same issues come up over and over again. PIP payments, Universal Credit, people waiting for payments, not being paid and they fall into this trap, they miss a rent payment and the bailiffs are called in. It’s that thing of just having enough money to get by, just enough and then something happens, like the boiler breaks or there’s a fire
“This resource brings such joy but it makes everyone in the group angry that people are struggling so much. Some people still think that we’re helping those who don’t deserve it. I don’t ever want to get into thinking whether people are deserving or not. People and children are in need. People are fleeing domestic violence which has gone through the roof since lockdown. We are a sticking plaster on a gaping wound, but at least we’re doing something.”
If you want to help Julie, this is how 500 Acts of Kindness works:
1. Please set up a STANDING ORDER/REGULAR PAYMENT (not direct debit) of £1 (more if you wish) every Monday payable to:
500 Acts of Kindness
Acc no: 40214583
2. Please email the group to let them know at Kindness500@hotmail.com
3. If you have a nomination for help please email Kindness500@hotmail.com
Please note that only nominations (received from members who contribute to the fund) will be considered.
Inspiring kindness one tweet at a time here: https://twitter.com/500Actsof?s=09
Email (monitored weekly): firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the page on Facebook. 500 Acts of Kindness