In March, we faced the unprecedented challenge of the country going into lockdown and vulnerable groups of people being told to shield because of underlying health conditions or age. In a joint initiative, NHS England and the Royal Voluntary Service sent a call out for volunteers to help vulnerable people stay safe and well at home during the pandemic. They were looking for up to 250,000 volunteers, but within 48 hours the NHS Volunteer Responders recruitment initiative recruited 750,000 people, and I am privileged to be one of them – as I'm sure are many other civil servants.
We are currently going through times that we would never have dreamt of seeing. We have all been impacted by changes to our work patterns, many of us working from home, and some self-isolating.
The Bible says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” Growing up, volunteering and giving back to the community was very much part of what we did and I’ve carried that principle through my life. So when the call went out for volunteers, I felt that I was in a fortunate position to have good health and had to do something to help support the NHS through this difficult period.
I am signed up as a Community Response volunteer, which involves collecting shopping, medication or other essential supplies for people self-isolating, and delivering these supplies to their home. I am also a ‘Check in and Chat’ volunteer, providing telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness as a consequence of self-isolation.
I get alerted via the GoodSAM app with details of the vulnerable person and how to contact them. I am also able to choose when I’m ‘on duty’ through the app and fit my volunteering around other work or life commitments.
So far, I have helped a few people by picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy and chatting with them. It’s so rewarding to know that I am able to help in some way and speak with them, even if it’s just for five minutes.
Volunteering for me has been a great way to give back in a meaningful way and be able to see an instant real difference in people’s lives. Not only this, but when you give back to the world in such a way, it increases your own happiness and self-appreciation, which is important, especially in times like these.
Following the overwhelming response to the call for volunteers, NHS Volunteer Responders has been paused, but there are still ways in which you can volunteer to support the NHS and your local community. Find out more about volunteering for the NHS through the Royal Voluntary Service, here.