Living through a pandemic hasn’t been easy but seeing how our community has pulled together during this time has been truly inspiring. During the Covid-19 outbreak, almost half of people (47 percent) across England have volunteered independently, with 21 percent volunteering through organisations and or clubs. From keeping in touch with those who have difficulty getting out and about to delivering shopping and essentials to people who are particularly vulnerable, small acts of kindness have made a big difference.
When the NHS appealed for volunteer responders to join the Covid-19 effort, it hit its initial quarter of a million target within less than 24 hours.
The enthusiasm to show kindness to others has been outstanding.
To mark Volunteers’ Week, we spoke to three volunteers about their experiences helping others in their community through one of the hardest times in memory.
One of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic has been social distancing from our loved ones. For many elderly people who had to shield for months in order to safeguard their health, the Covid-19 outbreak has left them feeling isolated.
Aware of the loneliness that many elderly people in his local area of Birmingham were experiencing, Reverend Bryan Scott decided to act.
“I put together a team of like-minded individuals who wanted to make a difference and offer some sort of support to people who were in need,” he said.
He started a befriending service at the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020 as a way of helping elderly people stay connected.
Volunteers check in with elderly residents and support them with everything from booking appointments to getting their medication.
“Sometimes we would be the only people they would see all week,” Rev Bryan said.
Rev Bryan said he and his team of volunteers source “culturally appropriate meals” so locals can enjoy the cuisine they’re familiar with.
Among the volunteers are his wife and two children. They help with meal orders for residents who are unable to travel to the shops themselves.
“We also delivered self-care boxes, with lotions, hot drinks, biscuits, bread, large print word search, large print books, knitting stuff and jigsaws,” Rev Bryan said.
Meals are delivered via doorstep drops and volunteers wear full PPE as part of measures to protect themselves and the people they’re supporting.
Rev Bryan, who is a Covid Champion for Birmingham City Council, has gone even further in terms of doing what he can to protect himself from the virus by having both doses of the vaccine.
He understands the concerns some people have about the jab and has offered reassurance, even ringing people who were worried after their vaccination to check on them and to support them when they experienced some of the common side effects.
Angelina Elliott, a project manager from south-west London is also among those who gave up their spare time to help those in need.
A long time volunteer, Angelina didn’t let the pandemic stop her from assisting others.
“It surprised me to notice how hard people were finding the pandemic,” Angelina said. “I assumed many people would be happy to have the additional time at home with their families. As a single person I didn’t [foresee] certain hurdles like working at home with young children or the delays that could happen if one member in a large household caught Covid. I know it has been very stressful for some families.”
By opting to volunteer online, Angelina was able to take extra precautions with her safety.
Angela Clarke, a qualified psychologist and psychotherapist, has volunteered with a mutual aid group, the NHS and a counselling service during the pandemic.
“I provide information and advice in the area of safeguarding, raise awareness about health and wellbeing and also offer my skills as a qualified counsellor,” she said.
“It was clear to me that people were struggling in various ways, initially some were struggling to feed their families, to access support and many were experiencing bereavement and loss,” she added.
Angela has had both doses of the Covid vaccine but she also wore appropriate PPE, observed social distancing and washed her hands regularly when volunteering in-person.
Having had Covid herself, which made her quite unwell for some time, she was keen to do everything she could to protect herself and others from the virus.
For anyone still unsure about getting the vaccine, Angela’s advice is to do your own research and ask health professionals any questions about the jab.
“Speak to your pharmacist or GP and attend or listen to webinars put on by trusted sources,” she said.
Getting vaccinated against Covid when you’re invited to is one of the best ways you can protect yourself and others from Covid-19.
For more information about the Covid vaccine, visit nhs.uk/CovidVaccine
To book your Covid vaccination appointment, visit nhs.uk/CovidVaccination or call 119 free of charge.