‘I feel like a proper Londoner now’ – Meet the Streatham mum who started Clap for our Carers in the UK

The Dutch organiser of the nationwide clapping campaign to thank frontline staff has said she feels like a proper Londoner. 

Annemarie Plas, 36, from Streatham Hill, started Clap For Our Carers in the UK after seeing a similar effort in her home country. 

She is encouraging people to bang pots and pans and clap their hands every Thursday at 8pm until the end of the lockdown. 

Moments after people took to the streets for the second time, on April 2, she described her experience of the event. 

“I feel like a proper Londoner now,” she said. “The turnout on my street was bigger tonight than last week and it made me feel so humble to be part of this.” 

HUMBLED: Annemarie has received lots of messages thanking her for her efforts

She added she was touched to receive messages of thanks, especially drawings from children, as she has a two-year-old son of her own. 

She said: “Seeing them being part of this warms my mother heart.” 

Annemarie is a part-time yoga teacher and software saleswoman, and moved to the UK two years ago. 

She received lots of messages thanking her for starting Clap for Our Carers, including one via telegram, after the first edition on March 26. 

The man delivering the telegram ‘blushed a little’ when she thanked him for working, she said, and added that she and her son then started thanking refuse collectors too. 

She wants Clap for Our Carers to be extended to all frontline workers, who she called the ‘backbone of our society’. 

They include rubbish collectors, supermarket employees, pharmacy staff and hospital employees such as cleaners. 

She said to them: “You are still out there so that my world keeps turning. There are more and more people involved and it’s often an unseen group. 

“There’s not much pride in those jobs, or even much pay, but they are out there putting themselves at risk while we are all working on Zoom.” 

Salary comparison site PayScale estimates the annual pay for refuse collectors is £17,093. 

Robert Butler, 32, from Sileby, Leicestershire, has been a refuse collector for nine years, as were his father and grandfather. 

PROUD: Robert said it’s nice to be recognised for the essential work he is doing

His wife is a carer. He has never experienced anything like the thanks he is getting from people now. 

He described gifts, pictures and social media messages, plus people giving personal thanks – while social distancing, of course.

He said: “I’m proud and a little bit emotional as well. Even more so if it’s someone that I see every week, elderly, or with kids.” 

He added:“I wasn’t expecting gifts, not while people are struggling to buy food, but it’s nice to be recognised.” 

The government should consider a pay rise or a taxfree month for refuse collectors, he said, as ‘we’re the ones handling the rubbish that might have germs on’. 

Refuse collectors are being paid the same salary while working harder, Robert said, as some of the team are off sick or isolating, and more people staying at home means more waste to collect.

He said he feels worried and at risk, but is being careful. 

“Wave to us, we love it when kids wave to us,” he said.

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