STARING at her screen, Sachini Imbuldeniya broke down in tears as an NHS worker told her the video she'd just produced had given hope to an entire hospital of exhausted staff.
It's just one of an endless tide of messages she and Darren Smith have received since they produced the now-viral video 'You Clap For Me Now', which celebrates the brave work of enthic minorities fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
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The video features nurses, doctors, delivery drivers, shopkeepers and even celebrities reading out a line each of Darren's original poem, which he penned in under an hour after seeing the power of the weekly 'Clap for our Carers'.
As of today, 16,060 people in Britain have died from Covid 19 – including 80 NHS staff and care workers.
Darren, who works with Sachini at The Bridge Studio, a creative content agency owned by News UK, cleverly flips insults used against immigrants around in the poem – so they're instead used against coronavirus.
One verse reads: "Don't say go home, don't say not here, you know how it feels for home to be a prison, you know how it feels to live in fear. So you clap for me now."
However, his inspiration behind the moving words actually came a year ago, after meeting Sachini's mum and hearing how she left her entire family behind in 1966 to move to the UK and help the NHS, as part of the Windrush generation.
Now, speaking to the Sun Online, both Darren and Sachini have revealed their hopes that its popularity – having gained more than 8 million views – will finally help to eradicate racism "and change the mindset of people that see immigrants or ethnic minorities in a negative way".
Here, they reveal their incredible journey to make the video…
Brave mum flew across world to help NHS
Content director Darren, 39, first decided to put pen to paper in response to a call by the UN for coronavirus content that conveyed positivity and kindness.
But while writing the poem took barely any time at all, he'd actually been formulating it in his mind for the past year, after meeting creative director Sachini's mother, 75 – who also features in the video.
Her mum Savithri moved over from Sri Lanka as a nurse in 1966 to prop up the NHS, as they were desperate for more workers.
However, her decision meant leaving her entire family behind.
“She came here on her own," Sachini, 37, says. "She was the eldest of eight children, her father had just passed away, and all of her siblings were quite young, so she kind of had to provide for the family as well."
Savithri trained in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, before moving to London and spending the following 40 years working in the NHS.
“That was a time when Britain was really welcoming to immigrants," Sachini says.
"But then we had the whole Brexit situation, then the Windrush Scandal – it felt like Britain had suddenly been ripped apart slightly, there was a sort of divide. It was a negative time."
Darren was particularly moved when hearing Savithri describe how welcome she felt when she first arrived, compared to the hostilities many were facing amid the scandal.
So it’s finally happened;
That thing you were afraid of;
Something’s come from overseas;
And taken your jobs;
Made it unsafe to walk the streets;
Kept you trapped in your home;
A dirty disease;
Your proud nation gone;
But not me;
No, you clap for me now;
You cheer as I toil;
Bringing food for your family;
Bringing food from your soil;
Propping up your hospitals;
Not some foreign invader;
Don’t say go home;
Don’t say not here;
You know how it feels for home to be a prison;
You know how it feels to live in fear;
So you clap for me now;
All this love you are bringing;
But don’t forget when it’s no longer quiet;
Don’t forget when you can no longer hear the birds singing;
Or see clearer waters;
That I crossed for you;
To make lives filled with peace;
And bring peace to your life too;
Come all you Gretas;
See what we have learned;
It only takes the smallest thing;
To change the world.
“She was a little bit sad that the whole [Windrush] scandal was happening and taking a country that was once inclusive and open and tolerant and caring, to this place that was a little bit more fearful," he says.
However, Sachini and Darren say that watching the nation come together to clap every Thursday for the NHS, they realised Britain was once again uniting as one – and it presented a unique opportunity to eradicate hostility.
'We’ve identified a common enemy that is a true enemy'
Keen to honour the important messages portrayed in Darren's poem, Sachini suggested making it into a film – and reached out to as many family and friends as she could think of that were key workers, asking them to spread the word.
She spent around a week producing the film from isolation, having to guide every volunteer through exactly how to record their own line.
Eventually, she managed to bring 39 people, of around 19 nationalities, together in the incredibly moving footage.
But it didn't come without its difficulties, as Darren jokes: “It was a logistical nightmare!"
With only a few people, such as This Morning's Dr Zoe Williams, comedian Tez Ilyas and radio presenter Mim Shaikh, having experience in front of a camera, it meant a great deal of instruction from Sachini from afar.
“My mum features in it too, and I asked my sister who’s self-isolating with her to film her," she says.
“She did a lot of takes! They were WhatsApping me them all and eventually I recorded myself saying it, and asked her to copy it!"
She says the dedication by everyone involved was incredible, however, as each of them – many of whom were key workers – took time out of their busy days to make it a success.
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“The whole point of this project was supposed to be about positivity and kindness and solidarity. It was never about race or hate or divide or anything like that – only positivity," Sachini says.
“All humans are humans, and underneath whatever colour our skin is, we’re all just people. Be kind to everyone, no matter where they’re from or what they do.”
It's a goal shared by Darren too, who says the entire project is aimed at reminding people that they're united against one common enemy now.
“We’ve identified a common enemy that is a true enemy, and that is the coronavirus. Suddenly we’re all on the same side facing outwards," he says.
“Suddenly farmers are saying they need tens of thousands of people, because we can’t physically provide the workforce ourselves.
"It’s an exact echo of the Windrush generation."
'Anything that unites Piers Morgan and JK Rowling is incredible!'
While the pair of them put their heart and soul into the project, they say they never could have expected it to go viral like it has.
Recalling the night they posted it on Instagram, Darren says they were stood on the phone to each other in their kitchens in complete shock – watching as the number of views steadily rose in front of their eyes.
“Everyone who worked on this worked for free. So we said we’d put in £20 in to see if we could get it to 2,000," he says.
"Then Sach rang me and told me to go on Twitter. It was at almost 20,000 views, I thought, ‘brilliant, I get to keep my £20 now!’
“Then it just snowballed from there. We spent most of the night watching it – I don’t think either of us got more than an hour’s sleep. We were just in disbelief.”
Sure enough, the clip soon captured the attention of a stream of high-profile celebrities, from Gary Lineker to JK Rowling and Piers Morgan.
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“Jameela Jamil did it quite early with a really nice message, Lorraine on ITV said it was really powerful, we had JK Rowling, Sadiq Khan did a really nice message about it. Even Piers Morgan!" says Darren.
“Anything that can unite Piers Morgan and JK Rowling is quite an incredible thing!”
'I cried when I read her message'
However, out of all of the incredible messages they've received in the days since, Sachini says there's one that brought her to tears.
She said that during this crisis, that video has completely helped them through. It’s made them feel more positive, and she said, ‘I don’t think you understand the difference it’s made to their lives'.
“One of the nicest messages I’ve had was from someone that works at North Middlesex Hospital," she explains.
“She said all her staff and patients loved it so much, so she asked me if I could send her the original so she could play it in their atrium on repeat every day.
“She said that during this crisis, that video has completely helped them through. It’s made them feel more positive, and she said, ‘I don’t think you understand the difference it’s made to their lives’.
“I cried when I read her message. She just said it helps them through every day. For me, that’s job done."
And while Sachini herself has seen the video and words multiple times, it never fails to leave her in awe even now.
“It was very powerful and emotional for me," she admits.
“I never actually heard it without the visuals, but I’ve done a couple of live radio interviews recently where I’ve heard it just as audio, and I cried hearing it then."
'I just want people to see everyone as a human'
Ultimately, Sachini and Darren both share a common goal with this project.
“People fear things that are different and I think that’s why racism exists," Sachini says. "I just want people to see everyone as a human."
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She herself has sadly experienced hostility, despite being born in London and growing up there.
“I’ve 100 per cent experienced hostility myself, lots of times," she says.
In fact, the first person to appear in the video is art director at Stylist, Claire Cheung, and she's since penned a first-person piece herself, describing her own experience with racism in the past.
“My parents moved to the UK in their early 20s from Hong Kong. I still today suffer from racism, which has been exacerbated due to Covid-19," she wrote.
"In the past few weeks I’ve received hostile looks and someone even tried to knock me off my bike the other day."
'We must remember'
Darren now hopes that the few positive outcomes of coronavirus, and how it's brought people together, will continue after the pandemic is over.
Echoing that, Sachini added the hashtag #wewillremember at the end of the video.
“We went through so many difficult years of deciding that someone’s identity was more important than their humanity," Darren says.
"We must keep this solidarity when we come out of this and not forget and go back to the old way of saying, 'we don’t want these people here’."
“I’d love more stories like the North Middlesex Hospital one," Sachini adds.
"The point with the hashtag at the end is saying we will remember you, we promise you we won’t forget when we go back to normality.”
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