We’ve got some great news to kick off a new week, and that’s that our very own CEO, Ingrid, has just appeared on a very special podcast, called ‘Breaking the Cycle’, recorded by Michael Coates of ‘Combat Pest Control’.
Combat Pest Control is a fully-accredited London Pest Control company run by Michael, and employs military veterans to work for him. They are also the only pest control company in the world to be part of the B1G1 initiative. and with a ‘Fighting pests, promoting peace‘ ethos, as for every job they carry out, they contribute towards a child’s education in Afghanistan.
Michael himself is a former soldier, and a former firefighter. Born and bred in Hull, in East Yorkshire, Michael was raised in social housing and joined the army at 16, where he served for six years, going twice to Iraq, before spending nine years in the fire service and then starting Combat Pest Control.
Michael’s podcast highlights the challenges, achievements, and societal issues within social housing, and in this podcast episode, he speaks with Ingrid, focusing on mental health. She speaks about her early life in British Guyana and how being a child carer for her disabled dad and brothers shaped her life. She also talks about how she came to the UK and what drives her today, especially when it comes to working for QVT.
You can listen to the podcast here but it can be found on all major podcast platforms.
Combat Pest Control work in partnership here with us at QVT in and around our South East London properties, to deal with any unwanted pests that occasionally occur, and also offer us advice on preventing them in the first place.
We’ve also interviewed Michael, below, about Combat Pest Control, working in the pest control industry, and working within Supported Housing…
So Michael, can you tell us a bit about Combat Pest Control please, and what made you get into the pest control industry?
So we were, I suppose founded with a really simple belief, really simple four point vision. It was to employ veterans, reservists, and their spouses and partners. It was to educate and assist children in conflict, to protect our customers, and it was to support injured service personnel, and we’ve done all of that really, and we are doing all of that.
The majority of our team are made up of members of the military community. We’ve provided, I think nearly 80,000 small impacts. But if you look at the last year, we provided 22,000 days of education to girls in South Sudan as well as therapy sessions for children who have experienced trauma and a whole host of other things, including clearing landmines in conflict areas, through our partnership with APOPO that use African pouch rats to clear and detect landmines. We’ve got a symbiotic relationship between rats. The next is protecting our customer, we’re always trying to make things better. We’re always trying to look after people in the best possible way, we really specialise in social and supported housing, that’s where we are at our best. Whether that’s educating people, whether that’s educating ourselves on certain situations and putting that information out there, whether that’s getting better at the job we do, so we provide a better service, or the CRM we use, or the software we use, whatever it is we’re really trying to… The main effort is to protect our customer.
And then, the final part of the vision is to support injured service personnel. Three years ago, we created a podcast called Declassified that documented stories from the military community to help and support those who are suffering from mental and physical illness and injury. And we’ve had half a million downloads we’ve won best interview at the British Podcast Award we’ve. We had bronze in best wellbeing podcast at the British Podcast Award. So we’ve really gone over and above any expectation, a small pest control company, but with a big impact.
How long have you been working with QVT, and how have you helped to support us?
We’ve been working with Quo Vadis Trust for probably about four years and we love it. We get supported by the team there, we look at it from an… Like an absolute partnership and hopefully that is reciprocated. And I genuinely believe it is. And something people can look at this relationship between partner, or service provider as a transactional, but we really look at it as a transformational. We want to support and help wherever we can, whether it’s things like this, or it’s podcasting or it’s just improving our service and educating people, but our team are great and empathetic and compassionate, and we have to go over and above, in our care, and our customer service with the residents and the team, because it makes a real difference and a big impact to a lot of people.
Tell us about Combat Pest Control’s global impact and how your company supports the education of children in Afghanistan…
Just to go over our global impact and why we educate children in conflict. It was really quite simple, the majority of our team have experienced conflict, and understand and appreciate that some of the most vulnerable people in the world, if not the most vulnerable people on the planet are children in conflict. Total innocence in all of this. So we felt like it was our moral obligation, I know maybe that sounds grandiose, but we started with two of us in one van providing a few days of education to kids in Afghanistan a month. It didn’t cost us much, and that’s grown and grown, and last year we were providing thousands of days a month. It really makes a… It’s a big deal for us, and we’re really proud of what we do.
You’ve an excellent podcast – what made you decide to start one on top of everything else you do?
We decided to create ‘Breaking The Cycle’ about two years ago, and it wasn’t called that then it was called nothing, but we knew that we wanted to, present and bring forward the achievements, the challenges and social issues around social and supported housing. I suppose I’d crafted an art really with, with podcasting and interviewing, and really trying to get as good at that as possible and have those skills to be able to listen and to kind of guide people through their story. And we’ve done it with the military community and we still are doing it. There’s still a lot of value to be had there. But we also saw that in this sector, again, this social supported charity housing sector, and we knew we had to do something.
We had the ability, we had the know-how, we had the production. We didn’t want to tarnish it with sponsorship or finance. If you wanted to create this from a corporate point of view, it wouldn’t be justified by housing providers, by trusts and associations and charities. Whereas I could do something about it, and that’s what we’ve done as an organisation. This is a Combat Pest Control project, partnered with people like Quo Vadis Trust, and we’re really proud of it so far, and we’re going to piece together something world class.
When it comes to pest control, is there anything supported housing providers like ourselves can do to help clients (and staff) minimise the risk of a pest infestation?
Good question. Is there anything supported housing providers can do to minimise the risk of pest infestation? So this is a tricky one, because we can’t do everything for everyone all the time, but a good education piece is excellent. Some simple advice, things to do with waste and hygiene are always great places to start, but also working with people like us and understanding what bedbugs look like, or understanding that no matter what your situation, you don’t have to live with a mouse problem or a rat issue.
Understanding that it’s not acceptable to live with pests in your home and getting that communication out there, getting it from people like Ingrid and other people in the senior positions and letting residents know that this is normal, but it shouldn’t be normalised. So of course, we’re going to get house mice in our homes in cities, we shouldn’t normalise those being around all the time. So I think it’s good communication from the top, it’s working with empathetic and competent partners, and it’s ensuring that things get done properly.
And finally, it has to be asked… what is the worst pest case you’ve ever had to deal with?!
The worst infestation we’ve ever dealt with. I think that needs to be put in a different way, I think the most upsetting pest control situation we’ve had to deal with was with a 92 year old gentleman. We were working for an organisation, I got asked to go see him in his home, because there was some concern with bedbugs. And when I got there, and I knew the chap, he was a great guy he’d been in Korea, in the military, he was a clock maker, he was a very articulate, well presented man. But his backstory was heartbreaking, he’d lost his wife and his adopted son died and his adopted daughter was sleeping rough, although she had a home to go to.
And when we went in the property, there were bed bugs, crawling all over him. I’ve never seen anything like it. They were in the seams of his pyjamas, tens and tens and tens in his clothes… Clusters of bed bugs in his clothes and, bed bugs are a good eight to 10 millimetres, centimetre, and they go smaller, but about that. And they were everywhere, and then we found out he hadn’t an unbroken night’s sleep in years and years and years. Investigating further his daughter was using it as a halfway home and bringing people back to sleep. This problem, when we started peeling it back, just became how… Inhabitable is not the word to put this, this was a hazard. This was serious stuff.
There was tens of thousands of bedbugs in this property, and we had to do something about it, so we rang the organisation he was affiliated with, we said look, we need this much money, to put into our bank right now, and we’re going to throw everything at it, and we didn’t make anything, any money on that, that job. But we needed specialist companies to come in, we needed waste removal. We needed to buy replacement beds, and really spend six months on this job, making sure that we got a conclusion. Maybe two years after, the gentleman died, but knew that two years, he’d lived without parasites living off him and he’d lived in peace. And even the very night we changed his bed, and we didn’t allow him to sleep in his double bed, we got him a single downstairs. That was the first night in years he’d had a good night’s sleep. We’re really proud of that, it was upsetting, but we had the ability to do it. And, and it’s things like that, that drive us on as well. It drives us to make sure that vulnerable people get looked after.