Gravesend-based black cab driver Micky Harris and his wife Barbara were childhood sweethearts. Married for 40 years, they had four children; they did everything together.
But around 18 months ago, Barbara was tragically taken.
Cancer which she’d beaten more than a decade ago came back, and it had spread. ellenor stepped in to care for Barbara in the final days and weeks of her life. She opted to receive that care from the comfort of her own home, with her loving husband by her side.
“ellenor spoke to us about our needs, about Barbara’s last wishes – and asked her how, and where, she wanted to be cared for. But they also took time for me. It was my wife who was ill and passing away, but ellenor are fully aware of the effects that life-limiting illness can have upon the patient’s family. ellenor understands that when your loved ones are going, it’s a journey you together – and they supported me so well throughout.”
When Barbara passed away, in Micky’s arms, he was devastated.
“You feel robbed,” he says. “Of your old age, your retirement; you were just working up to it, getting ready for the next stage of your life. The disease takes everything.”
That’s not to say rest and relaxation was what the couple had planned for their retirement, though. Because up until Barbara’s diagnosis, the two had been working on a special project. A project with the potential to disrupt and transform an age-old establishment in one of the world’s oldest cities – while giving back to the people there who need it most.
After becoming frustrated with the exploitative, often unregulated conditions cab drivers had to work under – apps charging both drivers and customers extortionate amounts to book a taxi, for example – the pair came up with a plan.
To build a taxi-booking app that charges customers just £2 (the maximum the regulations permit, although largely ignored by current companies) to reserve a black cab and send it to their pickup location. Instead of ending up in the pockets of private organisations, though, the profits from that £2 booking fee go entirely to the charity of that driver’s choice.
“For the drivers, the app is free to use,” Micky explains. “It’s non-exploitative. For the customers, they’re only paying the metered fare, and they know the small booking fee goes entirely to charity. Our taxis can’t cancel, so the customer can book safe in the knowledge that the taxi will arrive. And it saves them having to venture out into London’s often rainy, cold, windy, dark conditions to flag a taxi down themselves.”
It was Barbara, Micky explains, who was the “driving force” behind the app. As the two waded into the unfamiliar world of app creation and graphic design – starting from scratch but learning as they went – it soon became clear that their idea had wheels. And, even after the losing his life (and business) partner, Micky knew it was his role – his responsibility – to see the app to market.
12 weeks ago, Unify London was launched – and Barbara’s legacy app is already gaining traction with local drivers.