For this next module, I have been granted permission to tag along with the volunteer group the Cheltenham Guardians. Their work in the Cheltenham area helps drunk people to get home safely, as well as breaking up potential fights and collecting and giving blankets and food to the homeless.
They are mainly recognised on Facebook, and their group currently has a following of over 4000 people. Recently, one of their posts went viral and was printed in several newspapers. This was in hopes to bring attention to vulnerable women being left by their friends, often with no money, to find their own way home. The post featured ‘Emily’:
‘Dear friends of Emily. You may have started your night together enjoying the vibrant bars and clubs of Cheltenham, but somewhere along the way you lost your friend, you lost Emily. When we found Emily she had already been sick in the back of a taxi and in the care of taxi marshals. It’s fair to say she had seen better days. When we contacted you, you told us that you would wait outside a club on Regent Street for her. We were keen to return her to her friends and into your care. We took Emily to the club and you were not there. We waited, and still you didn’t come. We contacted you again as we were concerned for Emily’s welfare. It was cold, raining and she was poorly. You found it funny that your friend was in a state, you told us again that you would come for her so we waited, and still you never came. We called in the street pastors to help us with Emily, we were keen to get her to safety yet only you held the key, you knew where Emily was, you knew where Emily was staying yet still you never came.
Emily told us that she was staying in Montpellier, that’s all she remembered. It was dark, raining hard, you knew where we were yet still you never came. We walked Emily to Montpellier, we called you again and you promised you would take a taxi and help us help your friend yet still you never came. We told you that we would need to call Emily an ambulance as we could help her no further, we did not have the answers, you did, yet you found it funny, you mocked us, and still you never came. We called an ambulance, and they came.
Friends of Emily, we looked after your friend for two hours. We cared for her unconditionally whilst you purposefully gave us the runaround, hindered our progress, and despite our pleas you never came. One day you may find yourself in our care. We will care for you unconditionally, we will ensure you are safe.
I hope you read this and understand that you tied up valuable resources for over two hours and forced the attendance of an emergency ambulance at a cost to the NHS of £300. Most of all you were not a friend of Emily’s.
I hope you enjoyed your night at the expense of us, South Western Ambulance Service and Emily. Great job guys, you can be really proud of yourselves.’
The post got 3.6k shares and 2,534 shares. The attention of the post has also given the ‘Guardians’ more exposure, meaning more people are aware of their existence, and may as a result, be safer.
Recently, they have been enforcing what they call the India Protocol-The safeguarding of lone females . “The India Protocol is in memory of India Chipchase and those before her who were brutally taken from us. We do this for our children on the streets.” This safeguarding includes staying with lone women if they have been separated from their friends, giving them blankets/ water/ change of shoes and looking after them until they can be collected by parents/ friends or putting them into a taxi, often paying for the taxi themselves.
I intend on going out with the Guardians and documenting the good work they do, particularly with lone, young and vulnerable women. This would entail me going out with them on Saturday’s between the hours of 11pm and 7am. Legally, I would be entitled to shoot the drunken subjects as the shoot will be taking place on the streets, not private property. However, I will judge whether I think it is appropriate while on shoot. As well as this, some of the subjects, understandable, may not wish to be photographed.
(Disclaimer: The images used in this blog post are not mine. They were found on the Cheltenham Guardians’ Facebook Page.)