A group of pupils from Lilian Baylis Technology School, in Kennington, volunteered to repaint some of the estimated 160,000 hearts drawn on the Thames embankment wall beside St Thomas’s hospital.
Adam Adam, a 13-year-old Year 8 student, said: “If families were to come back and see that it got washed away by the weather, it would be really heart-breaking for them. [We wanted] to bring the hearts back to life and not let them fade away.”
Another student, Lendo, said: “It felt good to be part of the community and help, for those who were lost.”
The National Covid Memorial Wall was created by 1,500 volunteers in March in a collaboration between the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice and the campaign group Led By Donkeys.
Each heart represents someone in the UK to die during the pandemic. Latest Government figures show there have been 147,720 deaths within 28 days of a positive covid test and 171,801 people who had covid recorded on their death certificate.
But hearts and written tributes have faded over time and the students joined the bereaved Friends of the Wall volunteer group to help preserve the memorial.
Adam said: “Before we volunteered here I was aware of the wall, but coming here has helped me learn and really understand how many people have lost their lives to Covid-19.”
Classmate Elyon Sery, 12, said: “I have learnt here how important to respect the loss that so many people have experienced because of the pandemic. I have also learnt here how important it is to honour their memory of those who have sadly lost their lives.”
The Friends of the Wall volunteers run weekly re-painting sessions on a Friday where members of the public are invited to join helping to maintain the memorial which stretches for three quarters of a mile alongside the river.
The memorial wall’s organisers tweeted in response to a video of the students posted online by Lambeth council: “Look at these wonderful young people! Thank you for encouraging them and others to help care for the wall.”
Lambeth council leader Claire Holland, who joined students for the re-painting session, said: “The National Covid Memorial Wall is a poignant tribute to the devastating impact that Covid-19 has had on people’s lives across this country.
“So I really applaud our young people who have joined the re-painting efforts to maintain this memorial because they are helping to honour those who lost their lives, and showing empathy to everyone who has lost a loved one in this appalling pandemic.”