Hundreds of people have been working tirelessly, sacrificing their time to help out others during the coronavirus lockdown. From helping the elderly and at-risk with their shopping, to having a chat with the loneliest of our society, these people have shown true selflessness in the face of adversity.
Next week (1-7 June) is Volunteers’ Week. This week will provide us with the opportunity to express our thanks as a community to the people that have been looking after those that need it during this difficult first half of 2020, and to thank those that continue to help.
Leicester City Council recently teamed up with Voluntary Action Leicestershire (VAL) on 20th March to recruit volunteers. Over 1,200 have formally registered to help out in Leicester. Yet it isn’t just those that have officially stated their intent that are looking after the community. There are hundreds more that are helping out people in their communities.
VAL have been offering opportunities out to those that have registered with them, and roughly 500 people have accepted at least one of these tasks such as food production and delivery, leafleting, patient transportation, shopping, and pharmacy pick-ups.
Kevin Allen-Khimani, VAL’s executive manager for public sector contracts and projects, said: “The response from the Leicester public to our call-out for volunteers was fantastic, with hundreds signing up as soon as our Covid-19 web pages went live in March.
“We want to thank all of the volunteers who are selflessly giving up their time to help their community, but we’re also very grateful for the patience of our volunteers who haven’t been placed in roles yet. It’s important to emphasise that the coronavirus crisis is far from over, and we may be calling on their help in the weeks and months ahead.”
A number of local projects have faced closure due to the lockdown restrictions, however, due to the generosity of these volunteers, they have been able to adapt and continue their service for those that need it.
For example, the local foodbank scheme in Braunstone closed temporarily whilst transforming into. doorstep delivery service. Within a matter of weeks, the new doorstep scheme was underway thanks to the help of volunteers that had signed up via the VAL website.
Angie Wright, chief officer at B-Inspired, which runs the Braunstone Foodshare project, said: “Once lockdown was announced, we had to set up a whole new method of working to ensure that food continued to get to the people who needed it most.
“It took us a couple of weeks to organise our new doorstep delivery service, but we did it – and we had a lot of help from volunteers who had signed up through VAL.
“VAL did the recruitment and connected us with a great bunch of people – people who were willing to give their time, and use their car, to deliver our food parcels.
“Now, two months down the line, we’re delivering to about 80 households per week and we’re continuing to support those that were in need before the crisis, as well as those that have fallen into food poverty during this very difficult time.
“Our volunteer drivers have been brilliant: they drop off the parcel and then stand back safely to have a chat with the person to see that they are ok. I believe they are providing a real lifeline for some of our most vulnerable residents in Braunstone.”
One of these drivers is Janine. She is one of five volunteers that helps out at the Braunstone Foodshare project every day. She said: “The reason I signed up with VAL in the first place was to do something useful during the Covid-19 crisis.
“As I’m still working, I didn’t have time for a huge commitment – so when this opportunity came up I jumped at it.
“I’m now volunteering one day a week, doing something really valuable and helping to make sure that people have enough to eat.”
Cllr Rita Patel, assistant city mayor for equalities and special projects, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who responded to the city council’s call-out for volunteers or who stepped forward to support projects in their local community during this difficult time.
“Unfortunately, the coronavirus crisis will be with us for some time, and we will continue to need people to come forward and play their part in the city’s recovery.
“Some of those who volunteered initially will now have returned to work, but we hope that other people who are fit and well and who have a few hours to spare will come forward and offer to help out in their local community.”
There is understandably much more help required to alleviate some of the strain on our services and to bring a bit of stability and happiness that are struggling during the lockdown. If you would like to get involved or find out more about VAL then visit the link here.
Volunteers’ Week takes place next week, from 1-7 June. This takes place every year and is a chance to thank volunteers for their amazing contributions made across the UK.