Debbie Johnson, our Corporate Engagement Manager, has recently been volunteering at her local Covid-19 vaccination centre to assist with traffic and people flow on vaccinatiocn days. The vaccination rollout is truly a pivotal moment of the pandemic, signifying hope and a return to normality.
We took the opportunity to chat with Debbie about her experience and how it feels to be a part of the largest vaccination programme in UK history.
I am currently volunteering at my local GP surgery to assist with the covid vaccination rollout. I saw the surgery was looking for volunteers on our village Facebook page to help out with traffic, people flow, and admin on vaccination days.
I volunteer for five hours a week on a Thursday morning. As you can imagine, it’s very busy, so the volunteers direct and assist people as they arrive and leave the vaccination centre. We help to keep people moving quickly and ensure a speedy flow of as many people as possible – easy!
I had mixed emotions about volunteering when I first came across the opportunity. It was January, and the weather was still terrible. Plus, after being in lockdown for so long, I had reservations about being in close contact with so many others.
That being said, I had an overwhelming feeling that volunteering for the covid vaccine rollout was something hugely significant that the whole village could participate in together. Something that is going to help move everybody to a better place. This was the deciding factor for me and why I messaged the surgery to offer my help.
The experience has brought feelings of solidarity and camaraderie. Shared experiences with friends and neighbours are something we have all missed out on during lockdown. We’ve all been used to solitary days and plenty of screentime, so it was odd to be sharing jobs and responsibilities with other volunteers.
The idea behind having the volunteers there is to guide people through the process. It is very much a shared role and experience. For the first few weeks, we mostly saw elderly patients, and some were with their carers. It was so important to be kind and patient, as well as keeping them moving along. It was brilliant to see their smiling faces and joy at having received their first vaccine. I think a lot of them felt like they were leading the charge forward!
When we turned up for our first volunteer briefing, everyone was quite shy and reserved. I think this was partly as a result of weeks of lockdown and the dark, miserable weather. Once work begins, it can be rather intense, and there can be no delays, so we all quickly learned how to work together and keep things moving.
During a five-hour shift, we get a 30-minute tea break. After a couple of weeks, everyone began to open up and share stories of things that happened during our shifts. There were funny stories of people feeling overjoyed to be there or wanting to hug the volunteers (clearly not allowed)!
Now we see familiar faces on our shifts, and all the volunteers are starting to get to know one another. Now I know people in the village who I’ve never met before, so it’s been a great way to make new friends in my local community. We’re already discussing a reunion in the pub – without wearing our hi-vis vests!
The biggest challenge was deciding to volunteer in the first place because of the concerns I had about being around lots of other people. But overcoming this initial feeling and having the courage to take part has definitely all been worth it!
One morning an elderly lady arrived all on her own, looking perplexed. She hadn’t seen her friends or family for months, and she felt uncomfortable being with us after being alone for so long. We took the time to make her feel at ease – we explained how it was going to work and that within 10 minutes she would be on her way home.
We all introduced ourselves by name as she moved forward while making sure to share a little smile or joke with her all the way around. After her vaccine, she said it was the most fun she’d had in weeks, and she was looking forward to joining us in the pub – another new friend!
Now I know people in the village who I’ve never met before, so it’s been a great way to make new friends in my local community. We’re already discussing a reunion in the pub – without wearing our hi-vis vests!
I work with Age UK as a befriender. It’s such a worthwhile thing to do and you can get involved from the comfort of your own home! You receive great training from Age UK and the skills are transferable to other scenarios.
Sometimes in your mind, it’s hard to find the time or energy to volunteer. But once you’ve done it a few times and felt the sheer joy and hope of doing something extra, it’s addictive! You also make new friends along the way. Sharing life experiences gained through volunteering can change your perspective and enhance your outlook on life.
Try it! It will add so much perspective and bring joy to everything around you. It helps you become more open-minded and can change your outlook on things.
At Social Good Connect, we love to hear the happy stories that arise from volunteering and how it positively impacts charities, nonprofit organisations, and volunteers alike. So if Debbie’s experience has left you feeling inspired and ready to volunteer, then we say: go for it!
There are so many ways that you can volunteer to assist your community or maybe even further afield – it’s all about finding an opportunity that suits you. If you’re not sure where to start, please get in touch we’ll see if we can help.
Written by Holly Moore