Interview: The music promoter who became the local flood relief coordinator

Heart Doe had never played an active role in her community before, but recent events prompted her to become administration coordinator for Chertsey Flood Volunteers

Heart Doe is running a flood helpline and organising volunteers in Chertsey
Heart Doe is running a flood helpline and organising volunteers in Chertsey

Heart Doe is a self-employed music promoter who until last week had never played an active role in her local community in Chertsey.

Then on 12 February she heard that St Peter's Shared Church was looking for volunteers to help with the local flood relief effort. Most of her first day was spent filling sandbags, but two days later she had been made an administration coordinator for Chertsey Flood Volunteers, running the helpline and organising volunteers.

"We have provided a lot of emotional support to people affected by the floods as well as taking supplies out to them in vehicles and canoes," she says. "Some days I have been turning up at 9am and not leaving until midnight. But because I'm self-employed I have been able to give that time."

She has also provided a place to stay for some of the volunteers who have travelled from outside the area to support the relief effort. In total, she estimates that about 200 volunteers have been involved.

A dedicated Facebook page called the Chertsey Floods Helpline has been set up by volunteers to keep residents up to date with developments and assist those who are in need of support. "The community reaction has been amazing," she says."I've never seen anything like it. We've had people who said they were planning to move out of the area because they didn't know anyone saying that they'd changed their minds because of this."

A special moment came on 15 February, when a couple were married at the church as the relief effort was in full swing. "There were lots of volunteers around and they gave the bride and groom a guard of honour as they left the church," she says. "It was very touching."

But there are limits to what volunteers can do, says Doe: "A lot of people contact us about dealing with raw sewage. But there are certain clean-up jobs volunteers can't do because of the hazards involved."

She says that residents and volunteers have mixed feelings about the roles that local agencies and organisations have played. The local community and charities have worked together successfully, and she describes the army's efforts as fantastic. But she adds: "We've had nothing from the local council, but they are starting to take note now that we're getting bigger."

- Find out what charities have been doing to help communities affected by the floods

- Read about how community volunteers have been supporting the flood relief effort

- Third Sector editor Stephen Cook says community action needs help to survive when there are no droughts, floods or national emergencies

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