Protection - It’s a family business
25 Jun 2020
In mid-May, in the same week LifeSearch charity donations passed £20,000, Alison Baigrie celebrated another 20K protection milestone
“When [LD1] I started on April 16th, the first day of the project, I saw the anxiety and stress caused by low PPE stocks. But I thrived from the camaraderie, it was so cathartic to be able to pull together – with new connections and friends – and get the job done.
“We have 12 working days left* to make 7,000 gowns and reach the target set by Royal Brompton Hospital. So let’s pull together and smash this target!”
~ Royal Brompton Hospital Volunteer
*June 17th, 2020
Throughout lockdown, a Janome sewing machine stationed at London’s Kensington and Chelsea College has been Alison Baigrie’s home from (temporary) home.
Alison is on neck-tie detail, finishing up to 650 PPE hospital gowns every day before sending them up the production line. Angus Baigrie, Alison’s eldest, is also among the 100-strong team of volunteers who have strived to protect NHS staff as Covid-19 tightened its grip.
Hard work. But an extension of sorts to the family business.
Back to base
In late February 2020, the Baigries were scattered. Alison and Tom, knee deep in a house refurb, swapped the family home for a short stay in a cosy two-bed on the Thames.
Over in Germany, eldest Angus, 27, was kicking his acting career up a notch; touring Romeo and Juliet with the White Horse Theatre Company.
Over in LA, software developer and musician Patrick, 25, was continuing his upwards trajectory, while 21-year-old Carolina was balancing her politics degree at Manchester Uni with her first entrepreneurial venture - a chic new student mag called Margins.
When the Covid klaxons sounded, uncertainty loomed. Angus and Carolina were forced to make a beeline for home. But with the family HQ uninhabitable, the pair instead joined their parents in the bijou flat. And several months (and counting) of lockdown began.
The experience has been an unplanned regathering of the Baigrie family. Back to base. And back to LifeSearch.
Family business revisited
Over its 22 years, each Baigrie has contributed in their own way to LifeSearch. Angus used his film director training to serve as official photographer and videographer. Patrick helped to build the company’s world class intranet. And Carolina, who all but shares a date of birth with LifeSearch, was paid in Meatball Marinaras whenever she, as a young girl, lent a hand with company filing.
Since 1998 (or perhaps since 1987 when the couple met), Alison Baigrie has been a constant sounding board and confidante for husband Tom. Daughter to a diplomat, Alison’s instincts and people skills were honed on five continents and her counsel has been valued since day one.
As LifeSearch evolved to become the UK’s biggest life insurance adviser Alison has made sure to stay in the loop, getting to know the personalities that make the business.
“I’ve always been interested by people and their stories,” says Alison. “I started showing up and got to know the company by knowing its people.”
In 2019, Alison finally took an official seat as a LifeSearch non-exec and assumed a natural mother’s role – reaching out to those ‘Searchers having tough times; letting them know that they are cared about as well as for.
“What’s very important to me is that we look after all those at LifeSearch,” she says. “Our leaders and People Team do a wonderful job ensuring those experiencing tough times are supported. But whenever anyone is ill or in hospital, or there’s sad family news, it’s right that I too reach out - send a note or a letter or, if appropriate, a gift.”
When Covid broke, LifeSearch, like most businesses, went into contingency mode. Although a home-working infrastructure was long established, many ‘Searchers kept those domains separate.
Now, suddenly, and with schools closed and restrictions in place, all had to make a short, sharp transition.
Adding to the flux, Covid’s impact was immediately felt in the life insurance industry. Policies had to be reviewed and checked and communicated through unprecedented noise.
As CEO Tom led daily war room calls, Alison offered a compassionate ear, exchanging emails and calls with LifeSearchers as they rallied through the transition.
All this was happening in the middle of the Baigries’ small, temporary flat. Angus and Carolina were not only back at the family home, they were back at the coalface of the family business.
So Angus, armed with a degree in film direction from the MET Film School, began to direct the vlogs and video diaries which became Tom’s new daily staple. Carolina, now listening to Tom 24/7, became the CEO’s guide for connecting with Generation Z. Even Patrick, from thousands of miles away, curated The Quarantine Mix Tapes to put smiles on ‘Searcher faces.
One of the many calls Alison answered came on April 16th. It was from a fellow dressmaker and friend; fresh off a trial shift at the Kensington and Chelsea College. Two Baigries were about to extend family ties with protection.
20 / 20
“It was hard on the eyes, I had to peel my contact lenses out.”
If fatigue was setting in at the Kensington and Chelsea College, Alison and the team weren’t showing it. Inspiration and motivation were delivered by doctors and nurses from the Royal Brompton Hospital. NHS staff visited to personally thank volunteers giving up their time to contribute to the national effort.
Having a healthy pile of PPE, said one doctor, wasn’t just helping in a practical sense, it was also proving to be a huge boost for morale in the ICU.
“I remember the first two weeks of clapping for the NHS,” says Alison. “You could hear the sound reverberate across the river from Chelsea. I used to get quite emotional. We’re in this strange situation, clapping for the amazing NHS and feeling quite helpless.
“But by week three I realised I was doing my very, very small bit to help them help us. And it made me feel great.”
Just as volunteers hit their 20,000 target, LifeSearch charity donations in the Covid era reached £20,000. Since passing these milestones in May, the parallel has continued with LifeSearch donations passing £30,000 almost in tandem with the number of PPE gowns leaving the College.
To this day, Alison and Angus are still there, sewing and packing by day before coming home – to a family reunited in the name of protection.
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