Within the first three days of the lockdown, a leaflet from local volunteers had come through the door, offering to help with shopping, prescriptions, or simply a friendly phone call. By the fourth day, “the entire scheme was up and running with a website”.
Sam was furloughed from her part-time cleaning job at the start of lockdown, and soon joined the local volunteering group to fill her time. She was quickly spending more time volunteering than she’d previously spent working. She now shops for 20 people in her local village, most of whom are elderly and living alone. She also drives a neighbour to their doctor’s appointments twice a week, sources batteries for people’s hearing aids, and finds and delivers materials for people to read. “I’ve twice ensured that someone’s rent was paid (their money – my trip to the post office).”
Sam’s community has really come together in the crisis. Herself and the other volunteers have got creative: putting together “morale-boosting ‘pamper’ packages” for key workers, making face masks, and laundry bags for NHS staff.
Before the virus, Sam said she wasn’t aware of how many people in the community live alone and do not have anyone to call on in times of need. Yet she’s been impressed by the commitment of other people in her village. “The resourcefulness of ordinary people has been amazing”. There has been “no shortage of people coming forward to help”, but Sam worries about where support will come from in the future. “Many of our volunteers will need to be going back to work soon and that will leave a void.” She worries about whether the rough sleepers who have been housed will continue to be so after the lockdown, and whether the local bus services that’ve been halved during the crisis will ever come back to her village.
Sam is also hopeful. She has made lots of new friends via Zoom gatherings after online Church services. She has noticed more about her local area. “Birdsong has either increased, or has become more noticeable because everywhere has been so quiet.” She welcomes the better air quality and hopes that we will continue to reduce our pollution. She hopes that ultimately people will come out of this healthier – spending more time at home with their families or exercising and less time commuting.
Sam’s story sheds light on what life has been like for some of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the country. It’s a warm reminder that in times of crisis a community exists, ready to spring into action.
We’d love to hear from you too. Please join Sam in sharing your story here: https://renewnormal.co.uk/