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Our people step up

Last edited:
1 June 2020
All over the world, people are stepping up with acts of kindness in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Read how bp staff are doing their bit to help their friends, neighbours and communities

App helps feed underprivileged schoolchildren

US  1 June 2020


Four members of bp’s One Map team are using their geospatial and data skills to help millions of underprivileged children across Texas access free school meals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rachel Stanley, Salman Ahmed, Gang Wang and Lisa Singerman all responded to a call for volunteers to help track and update opening hours across school districts, along with information about meal drop-off locations and times. 

“A lot of underprivileged children have their main meal at school,” says Salman, “either free or at a discounted rate. When we went into quarantine, there was a lot of concern about how to make sure they could still get food.” 

So, Chis Akin, from an engineering firm called Dunaway Associates, worked with Texas COVID-19 School Services to develop an online, editable map that families can use to track their local school. To do that, 41 volunteers, including the four from bp, are each assigned 25 independent school districts (ISDs). Every week, they must check the latest information from their ISDs and then plot and update their assigned points on the map. 

The resource is thought to be helping some 4.5 million children and has meant many schools have been able to retain cafeteria staff. 

Normally, schools in Texas wind down their free school meals during holidays, but some schools are looking at the possibility of continuing the service throughout the summer, which will mean the volunteers will need to be ready to help provide the necessary updates.

The bp volunteers are doing this work in their free time, but all agree they’re proud to help out: “I always have an urge to volunteer, at least in some small ways,” says Lisa. “It’s not always easy to find something that feels like I can make a difference skill-wise and fits in with schedules. This was one of these rare things that I thought – perfect! I can do this! She adds: 


“If this helps some Texas families find a needed source of food for their kids while we’re getting through the crisis, I wouldn’t want to pass up that opportunity.”

Heroes of the hour

Global  20 May 2020 📹 1 min


Many of our people have balanced their day jobs with volunteering to help others in areas from education to the environment. 


People like bp data analyst Kim Brewin, who has spent the past 20 years volunteering as a blood runner for Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers Surrey & South London – or SERV – a charity that transports blood, plasma, platelets and samples between hospitals.


During the current crisis, Kim and her team have gone from a weekend cover service to supporting the NHS 24/7. 


And, the charity has even been helped by bp’s offer of free fuel.


Watch this short film to see Kim making a vital delivery on her motorbike.

Meanwhile, other bp employees have inspired us with their selfless acts, including digital telecoms engineer James Cox, who has volunteered for the St John Ambulance service for more than 10 years. He’s now covering extra shifts in a London hospital to help relieve pressure on NHS staff.


Or Andy Clouting, a service portfolio director for bp’s upstream digital operations, who signed up as an NHS volunteer, transporting patients from hospital to home, inspired by his family who all work in the health service. 


And then there’s Katherine Dickens, who has put her emergency planning skills to good use by helping in the command centre of her local hospital, with duties including allocating and redistributing staff to where they’re most needed. 


In Poland, Wild Bean Cafe process operations advisor Jan Gil is serving his local community as a trained paramedic on the frontline at Zakopane hospital. And, if that wasn’t enough, he’s also a mountain rescuer. 


Reminder: volunteer firefighter Greg Otto and digital mapping expert Josh Townsend, both of whom are providing invaluable service to their communities.



UK  15 May 2020


The coronavirus has had a major impact on all our lives and, for many, that includes our mental wellbeing. Ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week, we find out how one bp employee and trained psychotherapist is helping his colleagues to weather these challenging times.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK, bp’s Matt Vickers knew straight away that he wanted to help. “One of the first things I did was start issuing weekly challenges to the mental health network to help people try and create a sense of new routine,” he says.

Each challenge is deliberately simple, such as reducing hour-long meetings to 45 minutes or writing down what drains you and energizes you. Matt says:


“The idea is that routine turns into habit, which can create strong foundations of emotional support.”

Matt has worked for bp’s trading division for the past 15 years but now splits his time between his bp role and his private practice as a psychotherapist – a role he trained for after therapy had a positive impact on his own mental health. 

As well as the challenges, Matt is hosting virtual mental wellbeing ‘huddles’, providing a safe, active listening space for people to come together and share their feelings during the crisis.


“We usually start with a check-in and some mindfulness and then open it up to a specific theme. We end on a note of appreciation to get a balance between the harder and the positive stuff,” he says.

Food for orphaned babies

Senegal  14 May 2020


Throughout the pandemic, we’ve heard many stories of how bp employees are going out of their way to help others. And, this one is particularly heart warming. 


In Senegal, bp’s Berthe Nanette Gomez has come to the rescue of a babies’ orphanage that was in urgent need of food and nappies after the COVID-19 pandemic had cut off their usual supply. 


Berthe saw an online appeal launched by the Sisters running the nursery in the small city of Nianing and immediately took action, organizing a fundraiser.


She said: “I was really touched by their call for help. I am grateful to all our colleagues and friends who had compassion for my call and responded so quickly. In these difficult times, our attention must go to those who are in need and that was the case for these children.”

Thanks to the generous response, Berthe raised funds to buy thousands of packs of nappies, boxes of milk and cereal. She then coordinated with BP Senegal employees to safely deliver the supplies, abiding by the country’s and the company’s safety and lockdown measures.


Sister Monique, director of the nursery, said:


 “We are very thankful for this act of kindness. The donation was extremely helpful for the nursery and the children, especially as, due to the impact of the pandemic, getting supplies is increasingly more difficult.”


Reminder: bp has donated hundreds of essential medical items to help address the COVID-19 pandemic in Mauritania and Senegal, where it is building a new gas business. bp also delivered much-needed clean water to the Mauritanian river island of Ndiago when the normal supply was cut off following the closure of the border with Senegal and is now working with local NGOs  to find a permanent solution. 

Shopping for the vulnerable

Global  11 May 2020


From Chicago to Cairo, bp people are going out of their way to help others in their local communities by shopping for elderly and vulnerable neighbours.


Dana Hendrix in Houston has managed to help even while remaining in self-isolation by leaving unused face masks – left over from her woodworking hobby – on the doorstep of a neighbouring ER doctor. In return, she received fresh vegetables, a welcome gift as supermarkets struggle to stay stocked at this time.


Also in Houston, Ashley Booten has put together care packages and picked up prescriptions for housebound elderly neighbours.


And single mum and principal carer for her vulnerable brother (a kidney transplant patient) May Akrawi is still finding the time to do grocery shopping for her neighbours, which she delivers on her new emissions-free e-bike.

Meanwhile, in Cairo, Sherif Elshaer started single-handedly delivering food and home essentials to the elderly and vulnerable in his neighbourhood.

In Chicago, Dan Balzer and his wife are taking extra precautions but continuing to do their twice-weekly van deliveries of food to their local church’s neighbourhood food pantry, which serves up to 60 families each week. As he says: “They need it now more than ever.”

In Swindon, UK, Dawn Maslen regularly delivers meals to her 93-year-old neighbour.

Proving that this really is a global crisis, elderly and vulnerable residents of a small town in Hungary where shops aren’t easily reached can be grateful for the kindness of bp’s Emese Hajdu, who is giving up her time to provide them with essential supplies.

Trading spirits for sanitizer

US  7 May 2020 📹 1 min


Normally, when Ryan Bare wasn’t working on bp’s Prudhoe Bay operations in Alaska, he was running his family-owned distillery back in Iowa, US, producing whiskey and vodka. But, as the coronavirus response began ramping up across the country, Ryan saw an opportunity to help his community by switching production from spirits to hand sanitizer.

So, he began converting some of the distillery’s equipment to produce alcohol-based hand sanitizer using a formula developed by the World Health Organization. Now, the facility is offering bottles free to the public, as well as to local first responders, hospitals, nursing homes and other groups fighting the spread of COVID-19.

He is also making it commercially available to other businesses at pre-pandemic prices – including bp. When the team in Alaska needed supplies for workers on the slope, Ryan coordinated with the company to send four 55-gallon drums of hand sanitizer to Prudhoe Bay.


Describing the experience, Ryan says:


“It has been a complete labour of love, to take the skillset that I’ve used for 25 years working in the oil sector, bring it back to small-town Iowa, and build a facility that’s able to do something like this.”


Watch this video to find out more.

Making a difference from home

Spain  |  6 May  2020 📹 2:16 mins


After responding to a WhatsApp group message from a radiographer friend, bp Spain’s Ruth Hurtado has joined a cottage production line creating plastic aprons for Madrid’s frontline heath service staff.


Each apron takes just two to three minutes to make and, so far, Ruth and her group have made 3,000, which have already been distributed to local hospitals. And they’e not stopping at that. Ruth says:


“I would encourage you and your families to make small things in this difficult time.”


Watch this video to find out more.

3D printing to protect healthcare workers

US  |  30  April 2020 📹 3 mins


Last month, we met BP’s Ricky Burns, who has been using his 3D printer to create visor shields for use at his local hospital and at testing sites.


Now, he’s going a step farther by building more sophisticated respirator masks as well.


Watch this three-minute video to find out more.

BP employees use digital skills to support learning

Global  |  17 April 2020


COVID-19 might be closing classrooms but BP employees are helping young minds stay open.


In Hungary, our head of country Viktor Knezevics is using Facebook to offer free digital training for teachers in Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom. Viktor says: 


“It provided a great platform for discussion, educating teachers and parents, connecting schools and giving an emotional release for a few. We feel encouraged to continue beyond COVID-19.”


Meanwhile, in Houston, senior learning coordinator Rae Comeaux has been offering instruction in online conferencing service Zoom to teachers and students. 

And because no play makes for a dull day, employees and their families are helping to keep kids entertained during the lockdown, too.

  • In Surrey, BP’s Susan Snelling, who is also a scout leader, is continuing her pack’s meetings on Zoom, where she’s led an online scavenger hunt and discussions on the positives of being at home. Susan says:“I had many parents thanking us for giving the kids a chance to interact with their friends and saying how much they appreciated hearing their children laughing. It’s been tough for kids at home, but finding new ways of carrying out meetings brings structure and keeps us connected – all good for our mental health.”
  • And in Aberdeen, BP data steward Kerry Balment’s daughter, Logan, has used her time in self-isolation to launch her own YouTube story channel. She’s now won backing from Bloomsbury and Austin Macauley Publishers are supplying free books for her to read online. If your kids need entertaining, check out the channel.


Many more of our employees have lent their support to families as children continue their studies at home.  The BP Educational Service has free teaching resources for four- to 19-year-olds.

BP’s own local hero

US  |  15  April 2020


One BP employee is right on the frontline of the COVID-19 response in his role as president of his local Volunteer Fire Department in Texas.


This is not the first time this group of volunteers has been on the sharp end in a crisis. Just over two years ago, they were working round the clock trying to rescue hundreds of residents from the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. 


In his day job as a senior project lead architect in BP’s IT&S (information, technology and services) division in Houston, Greg Otto is in charge of designing, implementing and supporting communications solutions for offshore assets. 


But, on nights and weekends, Greg can be found on call for the Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department, a non-profit corporation that provides all of the fire and 911 emergency services for the Texas municipality. And, as president, he doesn’t just oversee all FVFD activities; he’s also an active lieutenant firefighter and is scheduled to start his EMS training. 

During the COVID-19 crisis, demand placed on the FVFD is unprecedented. It’s down to Greg and the chiefs to ensure that the teams are as prepared as they can be. He says:


“We’re making sure that their needs are met and that they are physically and mentally prepared for what will be a long-term and high-stress event.” 


As first responders, Greg and his team will often be the first people in contact with a infected individual and, as such, PPE gear is vital. 


It’s potentially dangerous work, but to Greg and others like him, the service they provide outweighs the risks.“I am proud of our organization, proud of our personnel and of what we do,” he says.


Find out how BP is supporting first responders, doctors, nurses and hospital workers at bp.com/localheroes or by following the BP America #bpsupportslocalheroes. 

Mapping app aids care in the community

UK  |  14  April 2020


BP employee Josh Townsend is using his precision digital mapping skills to help his local community find the resources they need during the COVID-19 crisis.

In his day job, Josh makes maps that help BP select the optimum location for our assets, such a wellhead placed on a seabed. He does this using his skills in geodesy – a branch of mathematics that deals with the shape and area of the earth – and a range of tools, including the BP OneMap platform.

Now, he is using those techniques to help coordinate the COVID-19 response in his local village of Lightwater, Surrey.  To help track vulnerable people in the community, Josh has created an app that has a range of functions, such as heat mapping technology and a volunteer contact database. Plus, it can be updated quickly to reflect any changes in local circumstances. 

Josh explains: 


“We’re using the interactive map to direct volunteers to certain areas that need help and to identify which facilities, such as shops or pharmacies, are open.” 


Josh is one of a 200-strong group of volunteers in his village that make up the Lightwater Resilience Plan. As well as applying his digital skills, he is helping to deliver food, prescriptions and even post for those who are self-isolating. 

BP employees deploy own talents and resources to fight COVID-19

US  |  30 March 2020


While BP is donating funds, equipment and fuel, employees are taking a DIY approach to keeping frontline workers safe.

Castrol HR business partner Christine Yang heard that her local New Jersey hospital was short of surgical masks and remembered her sewing machine. She says:


“I make simple things for the house, such as curtains and cushion covers, and thought this was a way I could help.”

After receiving instructions from the hospital, Christine used spare cotton and elastic in her home to assemble around 30 masks. The hospital is now providing kits from their own supplies, and Christine is using social media to recruit more volunteers.  


Meanwhile, in Houston, business transformation team leader Ricky Burns is using his 3D printer to make parts for visors. 

“I found out via a friend who works in a local hospital that they could really use extra equipment,” Ricky explains – so he contacted a group of ‘makers’ already trying to help. They needed visor parts – the plastic frame, the visor itself, which has to be laser cut, and an elastic band.

Ricky is now 3D-printing visor frames at a rate of one every 90 minutes. Each feature two messages: ‘Get well soon’ and ‘Houston Strong’ –  a slogan popularised during Hurricane Harvey. Ricky explains. 


“We know what it’s like to pull together in difficult times, so it seemed right to include the message.”

From farm to foodbanks

UK  |  24 March 2020


In rural Aberdeenshire in Scotland, BP’s Camilla Bush is working nights on her partner’s organic dairy farm (forestfarmdairy.co.uk), as well holding down her day job as HR business partner.


Camilla has been helping out any way she can, from feeding cattle to filling milk bottles. With supermarket shelves emptying, the farm’s self-service shop is providing a much-needed lifeline for the people of the nearby town of Kinellar.

The farm is also dropping off milk to local food banks and homeless charities, exploring ways to deliver to vulnerable and isolated members of the community, and arranging for volunteers to come to the farm to collect supplies for those in need. 

Camilla insists she’s just doing her bit.


“In a time where we could get consumed by despair, I’ve seen nothing but kindness. It’s been a hugely humbling experience to see communities and companies pulling together.” 


Home-grown kindness in China

China  |  22 March 2020


BP’s team in China has been helping in the fight against the virus since the start of this year. The team has been finding new ways to care for each other and the community, from distributing face masks to providing free vegetables.


Wait, free veg? That’s right. In Zhejiang Province, an area severely impacted by the virus, vegetables planted by the staff for their own consumption were offered to neighbouring residents free of charge.

Neighbours struggling to find fresh food could pick up home-grown turnips, cabbages, kale, eggplants and chilis, with around 300 kilograms given away so far. 

In BP offices in China, life is now gradually resuming, with precautions in place. Qin Zhang, BP Beijing team member, said:


“We are coming back to normal and have reopened the office, although we still wear masks and test our temperature before entering the building.” 
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