Hearing from our volunteers during Covid-19

Across Trafford, hundreds of people have risen to the challenges of the Covid-19 outbreak and offered their time, enthusiasm and energy to relief efforts across the borough.

During National Volunteer Week 2020, volunteers have been speaking to us about their experiences and the benefits and challenges of stepping up in their local communities.

Steve's story

Steve is a volunteer at The Bread and Butter Thing (TBBT) in Trafford Park, a charity that aims to make life more affordable for people on a low income. He took up the role of volunteer coordinator in early April, just after the start of the lockdown.

Here he tells us about what he has been doing over the past two months:

My main role is as Volunteer Coordinator and I’m responsible for ensuring we have enough feet on the ground to fulfil orders of food and essential items for the day, while at the same time sticking to social distancing guidelines and making sure the warehouse is not over-populated.

“When the pandemic hit my motivation to volunteer came from the simple human reaction to get out and help others less fortunate during this unprecedented lockdown.

“My role was furloughed so I applied for a number of charities including the NHS Volunteer scheme, but due to the high number of responders they had little need for additional volunteers. Then my boss heard that TBBT were looking for a volunteer coordinator, and he forwarded the details straight to me as he know I had been itching to help in any way possible.

“Some of the benefits of volunteering are quite obvious, for example the satisfaction of helping those less fortunate and giving something back to the community around you. 

“But there are also real benefits for me in keeping busy and socially interactive. I thrive on human interaction and being able to see and talk to people - practising social distancing of course - has helped with both my mental and physical wellbeing. Doing this role I literally speak to hundreds of people and I get to see all of them at some point over the week. 

“It has also been very rewarding to watch the operations become smoother and slicker even as demand has increased and seeing members of staff and volunteers adjust, develop and gel together.

“I believe the act of volunteering has a huge and positive impact on the mental health of our volunteers. We all have mental health, but only ever really think about it when it is negatively affected. During the pandemic I have spoken to so many people who are sitting at home bored, lonely and isolated and this can cause real problems. By asking all our volunteers to commit to one to three shifts a week, we have brought some form of structure to their week. It has also facilitated interactions with the same people, so friendships and social interactions are developing, which has all had a positive effect on the volunteers.”

In three words, for me volunteering means satisfaction, motivation and achievement and my advice to anyone considering volunteering would be, ‘Don’t just sit and think about it – get out there and try it!”

Christine’s Story

Christine has volunteered in Stretford for many years and during the Covid-19 outbreak she has been personal shopping for vulnerable and shielding people who have particular dietary needs and cannot get the items they need via any other delivery service. 

Christine says:

I wanted to volunteer to assist in any way with this pandemic. It makes me feel valued and worthy of a purpose, knowing that I have contributed and helped in any way. I live on my own without any family and volunteering helps me to not feel isolated or lonely."

Carol’s Story

Carol is part of a larger delivery team who have been picking up food supplies and delivering them to the vulnerable and isolating people of Stretford every week. With deliveries going out daily, and two batches on particular days, it's hard work and the boxes are heavy but it hasn't stopped the amazing delivery team!

Carol says:

Since lockdown I've been very worried about people falling through the gaps in the system and going hungry. Being part of the support network set up by Stretford Public Hall /Foodbank means I can do my bit by delivering food directly to local people's houses. It feels very satisfying to do. And as a side effect I’m also getting to really know my area and its residents.”

Rachel and Ross

Rachel and Ross are volunteers at Altrincham’s Community Response Hub.

Rachel says:

The Altrincham Hub is not only about distributing food to the people who need it, but also about providing a listening ear to the isolated, anxious and confused. It is a privilege to be entrusted with some people's situations and hopefully provide encouragement and a perspective that helps sustain them through this peculiar and trying time.

“We are all trying to adapt to new ways of interacting, but for the shielded who are living with health conditions, the elderly who may not have family close or be able to access online chat, or the people whose mental health was already vulnerable, to be at the end of a phone can be a lifeline.”

Ross adds:  

Since the early days of running the Response Hub we have been providing weekly shopping for a gentleman in his 80's who has dementia and other health issues and lives alone.

“When he first came to us for help, he was very frightened of how he was going to cope with the crisis and especially fearful that he wasn't going to be able to get food. He has no online access and is reliant on cash and cheques. We supplied him with a free food parcel initially which he later paid for and we are now supporting him each week with shopping and wellbeing calls. Gradually, his demeanor has changed. At first fearful, now calm and more confident and extremely grateful for all the help and support that he is receiving.”

Rachel’s Story

Another of our volunteers, Rachel, has made time to volunteer with both Trafford College food parcels and at Salford Royal Hospital, and has also offered to help with the big task of delivering advice line leaflets to local communities.

Rachel says:

I’ve been volunteering for just over 2 months now, helping to deliver food parcels to students and their families who attend Trafford College and also helping out at Salford Royal Hospital.

“At the hospital I’ve done a variety of tasks including sanitising equipment, making sure people know where to go for their appointments, taking equipment to different parts of the hospital, delivering lunches and meals for the staff and general running around as required!

“I decided to start volunteering as we are in such unprecedented times. I believe that everyone needs to pull together to help one another, and as I had a lot of spare time I thought I could use it wisely to help others who are in need.

“There have also been benefits for me personally. I’ve met a lot of different people along the way, and it has given me a sense of fulfilment to know that I’ve been able to help others and put a smile on people’s faces in such awful times. I believe that there’s no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.

“I feel that by volunteering I’ve been able to make a difference to some people in our community and also have hopefully helped to alleviate some of the added strain that many of our organisations are currently under.”

“If anyone is considering volunteering and has the spare time to do it, I would definitely recommend it. During the two months I’ve been volunteering I’ve met some wonderful people along the way. There are many people out there who are less fortunate than us and may be struggling. Get involved if you can and spread smiles and kindness.”

To find out more about volunteering opportunities in your local community, please visit the Thrive Trafford website