Our charity has been praised by the Department of Health and Social Care for its work at the city’s Covid-19 vaccination centres but we are in urgent need for more volunteers to help.
We are seeking individuals to donate their time during the next stage of immunisations to provide support to people in waiting areas and get them to and from their cars.
Annie Clewlow, Communicare Manager, explained: “As lockdown begins to cautiously ease, there is even more urgency to work through the second stage of vaccinations and we are hoping to boost our volunteer numbers to keep up the momentum and continue providing support to those in the city that need it.
“We had a fantastic turn out during the first round of vaccinations, we were thrilled that 16 of our volunteers were part of the teams delivering immunisation sessions at the very start in December last year and we had a total of 42 volunteers continuing to help throughout January and we currently have almost 60. But we urgently need more.
“They joined other volunteers from other organisations to support sessions across: The Adelaide Centre, Ladies Walk Practice, Chessil Road Surgery, St Peter’s Surgery, NHS Oakley Road, the University Health Centre and have since added Bitterne Park and Weston Lane Surgeries. They undertook various duties to help with the smooth running of the day, this included meeting and greeting people, supporting people following their vaccination, marshalling in the car park and centres themselves and, of course, being a friendly and welcoming face.
“We have had some fantastic feedback to say their help and support was much appreciated by all the staff, patients and carers, including a significant mention, praise and recognition in the Department of Health and Social Care’s published vaccine plan. It emphasised that we were very well organised with a constant throughput and little queuing.
“Our volunteers sanitised chairs in each bay, kept an eye on patients in the recovery waiting area and helped with marshalling to free up the nurses so they could ask the relevant questions and give the vaccine. It was wonderful to have received this praise from the Government and to have been especially singled out and named for our contribution to this bit of history in the making.
“We now need more volunteers to come forward each week to spare a few hours to help us do more of this, so people now coming in for their second dose can be assisted in a similar way and younger vulnerable people can be helped too.”
Communicare, which is a friendly, neighbourhood charity, provides services that enrich the lives of lonely and isolated people in and around Southampton. These services are staffed by its committed, kind-hearted Communiteers, who volunteer and give their time freely.
The Community Life Survey published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in 2019/20 found wanting to ‘improve things and help people’ remains the most important reason to volunteer.
The cause being really important to someone is a top reason for people to get involved (32%).
Tina Comparini, who was one of the volunteers at Adelaide Health Centre, said: “I volunteered for Communicare shortly after the first lockdown, as I wanted to be useful, so started off gently as a Telephone Befriender with one client, who I quickly developed rapport with and later assisted with her gardening.
“As soon as vaccination centres opened, I jumped at the chance to get stuck in. Not only has it been a joy to hear the appreciation from so many Southamptonites who were isolated at home for months, but also share in their delight at getting vaccinated.
“It’s also given me an opportunity to leave the house after losing my part-time job in November, just before lockdown three. Thank you to Communicare and all the volunteers with whom we have shared lots of smiles and laughs even behind masks! It’s a fantastic opportunity to give back to the community and assist in the efforts for beating Covid-19.”
Individuals who volunteer are able to play an active role in their society and by mixing with people from different cultural and social backgrounds, it helps break down social barriers.
Communicare’s work has a huge impact on individuals and communities and every contribution of time, regardless of amount, counts.
Annie added: “It’s well-known that those who give their time freely to help others do a power of good for the charities they assist, but increasingly people are realising helping out can also bring many benefits to themselves too.
“Our band of Communiteers, which is what we call our volunteers, are a vital part of our organisation. They are our life blood, and we would not be able to manage without them. We are always seeking more helpers and are urging people to get in touch.
“Aside from the obvious feel-good factor from giving your time to a worthy cause, becoming a Communiteer has a number of key benefits for your career too. Not only is it a great way to gain practical experience, it can also help you stand out from the crowd and learn practical skills, which will make you more desirable for prospective employers.
“Becoming a Communiteer for as little as an hour a week will help you feel happier, healthier and boost your career, while making a meaningful difference to society too.”
Even when people only have a few minutes to spare and are not available on a regular basis, there are ways in which they can make a difference to someone who needs support.
“Our Communiteers act as good neighbours, generously making regular befriending telephone calls, safely driving people to urgent medical appointments and doing shopping for those unable to leave home at the moment, as well as providing other practical and emotional support. They are essential in lockdowns like the one we have now in providing support and friendship, even if just on the end of a phone, to our city’s lonely and vulnerable.”
Normally Communicare’s services are linked to hosting face-to-face social events, such as regular lunches and tea parties for service users, but the charity, understandably, is unable to organise these currently due to ongoing Government restrictions on gatherings.
Currently more of Communicare’s work is done via the telephone, post and online.
The services Communicare provides are free to users, although beneficiaries are invited to make a donation if they are able to, and Communiteers are offered expenses.
“While we don’t require volunteers for face-to-face social events at the moment, we still have lots of people who need a check-in call. It is a lifeline and really brightens their days.”
Photograph caption one: Communicare volunteer Chloe Naegeli with service user Audrey Goodlud.