Voices from Local Volunteers Who Responded to the Pandemic
In the previous two articles, we saw how the Hope, Caergwrle and District Voluntary Action Group emerged to assist people who were vulnerable or self-isolating. This month, we hear from some of the volunteers themselves about why they became involved and their comments on the experience.
A “Rewarding Experience”
Volunteer Sophie Paudler is a podiatrist/chiropodist, but the social-distancing regulations made it impossible to do this work during the lockdown. She explained why she became involved with the Group and comments on the “rewarding experience” of volunteering:
“When the lockdown came into place on 23rd March, it not only meant I would be pausing my work, but also that I’d have time on my hands. Knowing the predicament of many people needing to isolate or shield along with my desire to help in the community, I contacted Rev Adam Pawley who put me in touch with Gill Pearson and the local voluntary action group. The group has been very friendly and supportive with a wealth of knowledge. I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s been such a rewarding experience delivering food and medication to people who would otherwise be struggling to get their provisions. Everyone is so grateful for our help.”
Relieving the Tedium
Dan Roberts was a Technical Apprentice at the Defence Electronics and Components Agency. His comments touch on the differences between the responses between England and Wales during the pandemic. These differences were to be a recurring theme throughout the coronavirus period:
“When I was sent home on the day the lockdown was announced, I enjoyed my time off for the first week. But soon the boredom began to set in. I started to look for ways I could keep busy. Eventually, I came across an advert for the GoodSAM NHS Volunteer programme and applied for it. However, it turned out to be an England-only programme. Then I came across the Hope, Caergwrle and District Voluntary Action Group.
“I got in touch with Gill Pearson and was quickly put to work delivering shopping and medicine to vulnerable people in our community. Whilst doing it, I got to know the roads and houses around the local area much better. I also got to meet new people and to talk to some people that I did not know as well.”
Trisha Healey was working on youth engagement projects with the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service before the lockdown:
“Once the lockdown began, there were no young people for me to work with, but I did have plenty to do at home. However, I was not travelling to work and had time for volunteering. I found it an immensely rewarding experience.
“The WhatsApp Group really gelled as a team and we worked together to discuss issues like infection control and the need for PPE. I’m not sure what will happen in the future, but my own thinking is that there is a need for some sort of group like this to provide lifeline support in the community. That would be a tremendous legacy. It would be great to see something good come from this terrible pandemic.”
Continued Community Involvement
Several members of the group echoed the sentiments expressed here. They felt there was a need for some form of group to continue with community involvement after the pandemic. The local endeavour was part of an unprecedented national surge in voluntary action and it seems likely that this feeling has grown amongst volunteers working across the UK. It may be that a revived sense of community spirit will be yet another of the outcomes of the pandemic.
The volunteers had also been through a learning process for issues associated with infection control and the need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). On the issue of infection control, a link to training materials provided by the British Red Cross was included in the volunteer welcome pack. A local constituted group applied to the Flintshire Local Voluntary Services Emergency Fund for funding for PPE on behalf of the action group which had not had time to adopt a constitution of its own.
Group members were now increasingly reaching out to people who were completely housebound and physically unable to collect their deliveries from the doorstep. Under these circumstances, volunteers had to take food and medicine into their homes and where they could be placed within easy reach of the individuals concerned. Social distancing was not possible and three-ply face masks were deemed to be an essential requirement.
Helping the Community
National development mirrored local decisions made based on experience in the field. At precisely the same time as group members decided on the necessity to purchase PPE, including face masks, the UK and Devolved Governments each issued their guidance on the use of face coverings in public. The different positions adopted by the UK and Devolved Governments were the subjects of considerable debate as was the issue of the wearing coverings themselves. At least the group had a clear-cut position on their use.
The members of the; Hope, Caergwrle & District Voluntary Action Group were just part of the overall response to the Covid-19 pandemic within the local community. Numerous other individuals supported their own families and friends throughout the lockdown. Several businesses had their delivery systems working independently of the volunteers and serving the borough well. By working together, local people showed the true meaning of community at a time of need. It also helped greatly that, despite some breaches of the lockdown regulations, the vast majority of local people adhered to the regulations by staying home, protecting the NHS and saving lives.
Throughout this period, volunteers were also involved in other deliveries for family and friends that went unrecorded. As a group, 19 volunteers made 289 deliveries of food and 572 pharmaceutical deliveries between 25th March. This was two days after official “lockdown” commenced and 16th August when “shielding” came to an end in Wales. They also undertook 53 dog-walking excursions for those who had been unable to leave home themselves.
At the time of writing, everyone is hoping that the strategy adopted by the UK and Welsh Governments, the sterling work of the NHS and key workers, the compliance by the public and the activities of groups such as this one will ensure that there is not a second wave of coronavirus and the need for a further lockdown. Local spikes have compounded the uncertainty in outbreaks and fears for the winter. Although the recent news has been a little more encouraging.
Next month, we hear from Gill Pearson whose involvement has been pivotal to the success of the operation.
Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views at email@example.com or by calling
01978 761 523.
Finally, thank you for reading ‘Alyn Villages Covid-19 Pandemic Response by David Healey’. For more Covid-19 updates, click here.