Over the past six weeks or so health workers in hospitals and advance medical centres, emergency service professionals and volunteers, care home and orphanage staff have been given an early morning boost thanks to donations of breakfasts. The brainchild of Belgian resident Aurélie*, the Merci Breakfasts were inspired by her wedding photographer who lives close to Nancy and ordered croissants for the medical staff in charge of taking care of covid-19 patients at a hospital close to where he lives. “Shortly after the solidarity Facebook group Luxembourg Expats COVID Community was created, I figured I could raise some money to have 100 croissants delivered at CHL,” she says. “These are difficult times for everyone, even more so for those risking their own health to preserve others. The least we can do is show how much we appreciate them.”
Aurélie approached Pain de Mary in Gasperich, who responded positively and even gave her a 40% discount for the initiative. She also added freshly squeezed orange juice for the vitamins, as this was suggested by someone on the Expats COVID Facebook group.
Aurélie set up a PayPal pool account to raise the €102.30 she had estimated the delivery would cost, but inside two days she ended up raising over €450. Another member of the group who had been going to the CHL in any case had arranged to deliver the order, which was gratefully received by staff at the hospital. “CHL was my first choice because I had heard Kirchberg was already receiving food from the nearby banks,” Aurélie explains.
When a friend mentioned Grosbusch had started a home delivery service, Aurélie contacted the fruit and vegetable supplier to ask whether it was possible for them to deliver to the Robert Schuman hospital in Kirchberg and CHL and ended up ordering organic fruits boxes for both hospitals. Even then, there was still some money left in the pool and Aurélie, who had been coordinating the initiative--contacting people, organising pick-up and delivery, following the PayPal pool, making sure everything was on track--while also doing her full-time job decided she needed a break. Through the Facebook group she had been in touch with Debbie*, who had suggested looking into other associations and institutions struggling because of the covid-19 pandemic.
Debbie, a US national who had contributed to several good causes globally but never been in charge of such an initiative, eagerly took up the baton. Aurélie had passed on what money remained and Debbie started her own PayPal pool and posted details on the Facebook page. She started receiving so many donations that she had to up the pool’s target almost daily to keep it going.
Emergency workers and care home staff
Among the first recipients were ambulance drivers at 25 locations who, Debbie says, “risk their health by transporting covid-19 patients on a daily basis.” The group, with the help of volunteers, also delivered to the three drive-in testing sites and two of the advanced medical centres--a representative at the ministry of health had told Debbie that two main centres were already overwhelmed with donations. Deliveries were also made to the two Medicins du Monde locations, the ZithaKlinik hospital, the Kannerhaus in Junglinster, Luxembourg Air Rescue, dispatchers at the 112 emergency call centre, operators of the coronavirus hotline and the CGDIS emergency services headquarters. The bakery manager at Auchan Cloche d'Or scored the group a 50% discount on all of the pastries delivered.
Debbie also contacted her local Parcs du Trosieme Age care home and was told they had suffered many losses due to the coronavirus. The home had a staff of about 85 over a 24-hour period, so she organised a delivery of two massive baskets filled with chocolates and other goodies from Delhaize in Bertrange, whose manager had been eager to help in the local area. “It was a very moving moment,” Debbie says. “The ladies who greeted us were so happy and touched to know that their community understands the hardships they are going through and the huge loss they have suffered.”
At the Rehabilitation Centre in Colpach-Bas, Debbie experienced what she calls a “full circle moment”. Arriving with cupcakes and chocolates, she was greeted by a large group of nurses and care takers who were thrilled by the gesture. “Then I held back my tears for a personal ‘merci’ for helping my dear friend recover from oesophageal cancer last year...and I found out that one of the ladies was her nutritionist.”
Debbie explains that the whole initiative was “100% a group effort”. 76 people donated money and 16 people and herself purchased and delivered of the gifts. “Many actually refused reimbursement, they wanted to offer the pastries and juice and to deliver it too.”
As school starts back up, Debbie is returning to being a home-school mum and so has ended the campaign. “No more donations are being accepted,” she explains. There are still some funds remaining in reserve, just in case she has missed someone. “I am sure in the next weeks I will find more groups and people to deliver to but for now... we, as a group, have delivered a well-deserved merci to over 825 people.” Indeed, for next week Debbie has joined forces with the Anna&Paul ice cream parlour in Bertrange to delive ice cream sundaes for the Post team who put together the masks for distribution as well as to also to the 8002 8080 Hotline Operators and to CGDIS.
Debbie hopes that the initiative will inspire others to make a simple gesture, maybe donate a box of pastries or give a verbal pat on the back to someone who has put their well-being and their families too at risk to help on the frontline of the effort to treat patients and contain the coronavirus. “A crisis is no time for being shy,” she says. Aurélie concurs: “I really hope something good will grow out of this dire situation, more solidarity and more respect,” she says.
*The volunteers have asked not to publish their surnames.