Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Simon Harmer and Essex in support of NHS workers

Posted on 20 May 2020 by Tusdiq Din

Essex County Cricket Club have teamed up with the charity Supporting Humanity, the Eman Channel and Saffron Kitchens to help provide hot meals for NHS frontline workers at hospitals in the Essex and surrounding areas. South African all rounder Simon Harmer was amongst the players helping prepare, pack and distribute hot meals for NHS staff, many of whom won’t have had time to cook after finishing long and demanding shifts.

“It’s important especially for us cricketers to help the community where we can. There’s a lot of hospitals in the outlying areas particularly around Chelmsford and East London. There’s a lot of workers that are on the front line that need proper meals, some wholesome food.

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Essex all-rounder Simon Harmer celebrates after taking another wicket

“A lot of them have just been getting sandwiches and cereal bars. So to be able to contribute in our small way and to make sure they’re getting nutritious food, the well prepared food here at Saffron Kitchen, yeah, that’s kind of our drive behind it,” said the 31 year old all-rounder.”

Under normal circumstances, Harmer’s Essex would have been in the thick of the action in another cricket season for which the club had been preparing for. However, as in much of the world, and sport in general, the onset of Coronavirus has curtailed those plans.

“It’s been quite a lengthy pre-season. A lot of the boys started in November getting ready for the season to start on 19th April. We we’re in Abu Dhabi on a pre-season tour when we got the call to say that we need to come back to the UK. I think it was very unexpected. A lot of us were excited for the season to get under way as I’m sure that the supporters and the public were as well. It was a possibility of being a very exciting summer of cricket.

“I’m sure the ECB is still working hard to make sure that happens. The biggest thing for us now is making sure that we stay healthy both mentally and physically and then try to give back where we can. We’ve all got a lot of time on our hands so to be able to find charities like Supporting Humanity is a big thing for us.”

Essex giving back to their community has been something that Harmer believes is the minimum he and his fellow cricketers could do. The hot meals have been very welcomed by NHS frontline staff working long hours in restrictive but vital personal protection equipment as they continue to save lives.

Harmer (r) helping his team-mates pack and distribute meals for NHS staff

“It’s been quite motivating to see how selfless all the health workers and doctors are. They’re the ones that are seeing patients possibly tested positive for Covid-19. So, they’re the ones putting their lives at risk every single day, leaving their families to make sure that you and I can stay healthy.

“All credit needs to go to them, they’re the ones that are fighting and ultimately when these lockdown measures do decrease, it’s thanks to the hard work that the NHS are doing and the greater public as well, making sure that we stay at home.”

Essex clinched the T20 for the first time by beating Worcestershire under Harmer’s captaincy last season. Those kind of celebratory scenes will however take time to return due to the pandemic, and we may not see full stadiums until a vaccination for Covid-19 is found accepts Harmer.

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Harmer and Ravi Bopara celebrate by lifting Essex first T20 final win last season

“I think it’s going to be extremely difficult for the world to get back together again. I don’t think it’s going to be a very quick process. You might start seeing sport being played behind closed doors because of the fear of having so many people in a confined space is a stadium. I think, that’s going to be the biggest challenge. TV broadcasters are going to need to make sure they keep doing a great job, making sure that the community still gets sport because the world at large has been starved of live sport and I think we can all agree that it’s something that we are missing in our daily lives. Slowly but surely we’ll start seeing sport again. “

Also helping out in Leyton was local legend and former England and Essex captain Graham Gooch who explained his reason for getting involved was easy.

England and Essex legend Graham Gooch helping at Saffron Kitchen, Leyton

“I think it’s important for everyone to do something if you can. I was brought up in this area, I was born in Leyton, lived in Leytonstone all my life until I got married and moved further out in Essex. I think it’s important for sportsmen and anyone in society, if you can do something to help others, that’s what you should be doing.

“Saffron restaurant are doing a great job for the NHS workers, they’re providing food and I’m going to drive it all the way to back to Chelmsford and deliver it there. Doing a little bit from our community for the people who are saving lives. I’m delighted to be here.”