Our wonderful volunteers recently donated their time to help vulnerable members of the community get their COVID-19 vaccinations.
The individuals from our Communiteer programme provided support to people in waiting areas and getting them to and from their cars during immunisation sessions across six centres.
Annie Clewlow, Communicare Manager, explained: “We are so proud that 16 of our volunteers were part of the teams delivering immunisation sessions for the more vulnerable members of our community in December and we have a total of 42 volunteers continuing to help throughout January. What an opportunity to play a role in such a historical moment!
“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 and the University Health Centre. They marshalled car parks, accompanied and chatted to people in the waiting areas at a safe social distance, following all the guidelines, and offered support and helped people to and from their cars. We have had some fantastic feedback to say their help and support was much appreciated by all the staff, patients and carers.”
Janet Ashby, who led the roll out at the Adelaide Centre, said “The sessions went better than we could possibly have imagined, we are all so pleased and relieved! It was a wonderful team effort with the patients complimenting everyone along their way.
“We are so very grateful for each one of the volunteers for their much-needed contribution, we absolutely couldn’t have done it without them. They were all amazing and happy to do whatever we asked. The Clinical Directors have asked me to pass on their thanks.”
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%).
Carolyn Page, who was one of the volunteers at Adelaide Health Centre, said: “I absolutely loved volunteering and stayed for the whole day. I was on the door greeting the old folk and sanitising hands and taking temperatures. It was joyous and heart breaking in equal measure.
“Some people hadn’t been out of the house since March, but they were so inspiring. So many were so physically agile and did not look anywhere near 80 or older. I loved chatting to them all and having a giggle.”
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.
Ninety-two-year-old Audrey, who is a Communicare service user, said: “There were plenty of volunteers and they were all lovely, smiling and exceedingly kind. It was good that there was no waiting to have the vaccine. I went to the door, was given handwash, received a card from a staff member and was led to a cubical. The girls were brilliant.
“After, I was given a label showing the time I could leave, after resting for 15 minutes. I felt this was a really useful idea as it is sometimes difficult to work out when the time is up.”
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.”
The charity’s Good Neighbours’ Network is currently supporting more than 580 individuals/families through tasks including one-to-one telephone befriending and transport for essential appointments and assistance with shopping.
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: Communicare volunteer, Chloe Naegeli, with service user, Audrey.