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There With You: Neighbours rally to give Dagenham lady memorable birthday surprise as coronavirus keeps her indoors

PUBLISHED: 15:00 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 15:25 03 April 2020

Vera Venables, 89, waves from her home in Dagenham, as her neighbours surprise her with a wonderful birthday gesture. Picture: Maria Sinclair

Vera Venables, 89, waves from her home in Dagenham, as her neighbours surprise her with a wonderful birthday gesture. Picture: Maria Sinclair

Archant

Residents of an entire Dagenham street came out in force to wish Vera Venables a happy birthday as she turned 89 on Tuesday, March 31.

There With You - the Barking and Dagenham Post's campaign to help everyone get through coronavirus crisis.There With You - the Barking and Dagenham Post's campaign to help everyone get through coronavirus crisis.

Covid-19 has forced everyone indoors, particularly those over the age of 70. Neighbour Maria Sinclair decided to surprise Vera as “she lives on her own and hasn’t seen anyone for over two weeks, apart from my husband who has been getting her shopping”.

Maria captured the footage as the neighbours — all social distancing — serenaded an overjoyed Vera who had stepped out from her Hedgemans Road home.

The birthday girl said: “I was feeling depressed at the time because of being stuck inside. It was really lovely what they did.”

Vera added that she has lived in the street for more than 30 years, and knows all her neighbours, describing them as “great people”.

Maria embodies the friendly neighbour, and explains how she arranged the surprise: “Luckily I had some balloons and banners left over from my birthday so I put them up in her garden. Then I knocked on our neighbours’ doors and they all came out to sing her happy birthday.”

Commenting that everyone was happy to join in, Maria said that Vera was so pleased by the gesture she “cried happy tears”.

In the video a dozen neighbours sing to Vera who remains some way behind the gate; visibly taken aback, she can be seen blowing thank you kisses in response.

Of the surprise, Maria said: “I’m so happy that we made Vera’s day a bit better. It was nice to spread a bit of light during such dark times, it’s important to share these positive things.”

The government guidance asks those over the age of 70 — including Vera — to stay indoors for at least 12 weeks.

This is known as shielding, which although designed to protect the vulnerable in society, does increase the risk of social isolation.

This makes the actions of Vera’s neighbours all the more important; they have given her a birthday she’ll never forget, at a time when she needed it most.

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