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‘An Army Of Volunteers Has Literally Saved Lives’ During Lockdown

Published on: 6 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 9 Jun, 2020

This past week (June 1 to 7) has been the UK’s Volunteers’ Week, a time to celebrate the achievements of people who give their time freely, and to thank them.

This year has seen an unprecedented upsurge of communities coming together and people helping those in need – due, of course, to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since March, staff at Voluntary Action South West Surrey, based in Guildford and covering the boroughs of Guildford and Waverley, have been contacted by hundreds of people offering to help as a result of the crisis. It’s Community Point service has also received hundreds of calls from people who require help.

As a result, Voluntary Action has been putting would-be volunteers as well as people needing help in touch with community groups, churches, parish councils and newly formed help groups for Covid-19.

Voluntary Action South West Surrey’s chief officer, Carol Dunnett.

Voluntary Action’s chief officer Carol Dunnett, said: “The lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis would not have worked without volunteer help. An army of people have literally saved lives.”

In its latest email newsletter to groups and organisations that Voluntary Action works with and supports it noted: “We have been overwhelmed by the support people have shown in Guildford and Waverley and across the country and this support has meant those who are vulnerable have been able to access shopping, food and prescriptions.

“Those who are isolated / experiencing loneliness have also been able to make new friends and have regular conversations by volunteers phoning for a chat, ensuring they are not alone.

“According to a study cited in the Guardian, an outstanding 10 million adults have been volunteering in their communities and most say they will carry on when lockdown ends.

“This is fantastic, people across the country have been getting stuck into helping their local communities and neighbours through what has been an unsettling, scary and uncertain time.

“It has been extremely positive to see people working together as a community, showing how volunteering helps to change the lives of many, including the volunteer who has been able to do something proactive and positive in a time where negativity is all around.”

Voluntary Action has been asking groups and organisations for stories of what they have been doing and achieving, and these were included in a newsletter to them, and volunteers on its database.

Some of the stories include:

Clandon Good Neighbours

“Just before Easter, both East and West Clandon were contacted by the National Trust at Hatchlands who had hundreds, if not thousands, of chocolate Easter eggs to dispose of.

“Because of the crisis they could not hold their annual Easter egg event for young people, so asked for help in giving them away to every household in the Clandons.

“The churches and Clandon Good Neighbours were instrumental in getting families to deliver the chocolate gifts in wheelbarrows around both villages, on a rather warm weekend!

“Several of our villagers have joined forces with Send volunteers to make scrubs, masks and other non-clinical PPE, so there is something of a production line in progress, with young volunteers on their bikes delivering packages to sewers and cutters around the community.

“We are so pleased that so many people have stepped forward wanting to help in so many different ways. The fact that not all of their offers of help have been taken up reflects the generosity of the community in these difficult times.

Sheila Willis, Fairlands Community Association

“We have 69 volunteers who have been helping people by delivering food and supplies. A large part of our help has been delivering prescription medicines from the Fairlands pharmacy to people local to us and also further afield in Guildford as well as parts of Woking. To date, we have delivered more than 4,500 prescription items.

“We have two volunteers who have set up a mobile library service. People contact us who would like some books taken to them. We have had plenty of books donated to us, and people can either keep them or return them at a later date. Also, we are producing a fortnightly ‘keeping in touch’ newsletter called KIT.

“Several volunteers are printing out the copies on their home computer printers and others are delivering them to streets in Fairlands as well as Gravetts Lane, Keens Lane, Liddington Hall Drive and Liddington Hall New Road.

“They have all helped in many ways and it would be lovely if some could continue to support our community when the crisis is over.”

The Revd Mandy MacVean from Effingham with Little Bookham Parish 

The Revd Mandy MacVean.

“Like all Church of England parishes, we have had to shut our church buildings and run our religious services via Zoom. As part of our ‘presence’ within the parish, we are usually involved in organising and hosting many community events and groups, which have sadly not been able to function during the crisis.

“We are very pleased to have ‘mastered’ Zoom. We run twice daily church services online and have far more people attending than would normally happen in the church building. On a Sunday, our Zoom congregation is double the usual church building attendance and we are also joined by people from further afield including abroad.

“In addition, because we have been unable to run our usual community events, we have had to be ‘creative’ in reaching out to local residents.

“These initiatives have included food parcels, telephone support and creating PPE for local NHS establishments.

“Our biggest initiative has been to create and run a community store in Effingham in the wake of a devastating fire behind our village supermarket.

“The community store was felt to be particularly necessary to help those without transport for other villages or the ability to food shop online. It has also meant that the parade of village shops has continued to have a regular ‘footfall’ to ensure that customers would still be coming when the supermarket was again up and running.”

Robert Good from the Stoughton Neighbourhood Support Facebook group 

“We have had four co-ordinators manning a phone line and answering email enquiries, and 90 volunteers helping people with their needs. At the start we were getting 100 messages a day. This has reduced considerably now as people have got things sorted.

“Overall, using Facebook has worked well for us and forming a WhatApp group of our volunteers has been good. Unfortunately, some of our volunteers had to come off our list as they had to self-isolate as someone in their family had Covid-19.

“All volunteers have been absolute stalwarts, and what they have done has rescued this government of ours.”

Crossroads Care Surrey

“Crossroads immediately responded to Covid-19 and our staff were motivated to volunteer to complete shopping and prescription collections for carers and other vulnerable people living across Surrey. We’ve been incredibly busy, with up to 80% of our staff base being out in the community to provide these services.

“So far since social distancing began on the 23rd of March, we’ve made 2,904 wellbeing telephone calls and completed 714 shopping and prescription collection trips.

“At the end of April, our care co-ordinator for Guildford and Waverley received an emergency call from Voluntary Action South West Surrey requesting help for an older gentleman.

“The gentleman was down to his last bit of food, milk, and bread and had not had a government food parcel for nearly three weeks. Rosemary, one of our staff volunteers’ took this on and that evening she did his shopping for him at about 6.30pm. The gentleman was so grateful he showered Rosemary with thanks and praise, and has even made a £10 donation to Crossroads as a thank-you.

“The gentleman is not able to work due to disability and medical conditions and has found himself having to isolate and rely on the help and support of others. He says that Crossroads are the only people he’s been able to reach out to for support during this coronavirus period and tells us how much he appreciates and values the support.

“Crossroads Care Surrey are extremely grateful to our staff who so kindly volunteered their time to support our Covid-19 response with shopping and prescription collections for vulnerable clients and carers.

Shamley Green Village Care 

“We have not used our regular Shamley Green Village Care drivers as most are over 70. We had a great response to our flyer and on Facebook and have about 40 younger, new volunteers during lockdown.

“One 95-year-old lady requested a lot of skin and hair care products and one of our lady volunteers was very happy to purchase them for her. She was very pleased. It made a nice change from getting prescriptions!”

Alastair from Right at Home 

“I am hugely grateful to the 170 or so people who have signed up to become Friends of Right at Home.

“They have been absolutely amazing, supporting those isolating with shopping trips and friendship.

“We have had incredible feedback from those we are supporting about how caring and compassionate the volunteers have been and new friendships made.

“I am immensely proud of the difference we have been able to make across South West Surrey and none of that would have been possible without these fantastic volunteers.”

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