Guest Blog Post: My experience of volunteering during covid19, by Charlotte
Hello everyone, I’m Charlotte. I am a 25 year old resident of Tang Hall and in ‘normal’ times I work for a York based Travel company, love spending time with my friends and family, eating out multiple times a week and going to the gym to balance out all of the eating!!
After going on a skiing holiday in early March, and being flown home after one day skiing due to Italy going into lockdown, we went into isolation two weeks before Boris told us all to ‘Stay at Home’. This was when my life, as well as everyone else’s in the country, changed completely. I could no longer go into the office and spend time with my lovely work colleagues, I could no longer spend time with friends and family, and definitely no eating out or going to the gym!! Just after I got put on Furlough from my full time job, I saw a post on the Tang Hall Community Centre Instagram page calling for volunteers. After emailing Kayleigh I received a reply asking me to complete online safeguarding training, and then was added to the Hub WhatsApp group – a place where calls went out for delivery drivers/cyclists to deliver food parcels, prescriptions and essential supplies, and for volunteers to cover shifts at the Hub. It was also full of positive feedback from those who we delivered parcels to, as well as the occasional photo of a mouldy orange and a variety of towers made from tinned goods.
My first experience of volunteering was delivering ‘Isolation Grub Club’, a bi-weekly delivery of two hot meals per person for isolated and vulnerable people to residents of Heworth and Hull Road wards. This was a free service and we delivered approx. 240 meals per week, totalling over 6,000 meals over the 161 days that the hub was open. I drove down to the hub to pick up the meals and spent the afternoon delivering meals to local people. It was so rewarding to see the happy, smiling and grateful faces of those who we were delivering to.
During my volunteering experience I got involved in many different things, I volunteered two days a week – packing food parcels, making phone calls to vulnerable people who are isolating and organising drivers to deliver the parcels. The hall in the Community Centre, usually rented out to local people for childrens parties and various group activities, was turned into a supermarket style distribution centre, where we packed our food parcels from, so one job was putting away food deliveries and donations from members of the public and local companies. My personal favourite delivery was when a van full of Yorkshire Tea was donated from Bettys and Taylors, this ensured we kept the residents stocked full of tea bags for years to come. It also kept all of the volunteers going too!! I drove to York Foodbank at Clifton Moor once to pick up a food donation, within 5 minutes of turning up, a band of volunteers had packed my car full of tins, pasta, toiletries and toilet rolls! The way we worked together as a community was amazing!! During the operation of the hub, we sent out over 2,000 toilet rolls, and if any of you can remember back to the days of the toilet roll shortages, I think this is pretty impressive.
The most rewarding part of volunteering was when you either spoke to someone over the phone, or delivered them a parcel, and you could tell what a difference we were making to their lives. For many of the residents we would be the only people who they saw or spoke to all week. The food was a lifesaver to many people, but I feel that the phone calls and social interaction was what kept people going through the pandemic.
Volunteering affected my experience of the pandemic in a way that I couldn’t even imagine, I now feel like a part of the community, a community that pulled together to help out people they would never have met if it wasn’t for the pandemic. Volunteering also helped my own mental health, and I know it did for many of us that volunteered. It gave those on furlough a purpose when they would usually be working, it gave those who live alone social interaction and we all made good friends and had so many laughs along the way. It would have been so easy to just stay at home and watch Netflix or trash TV all day, but I feel like volunteering has given me a sense of accomplishment, some good friends and most of all I feel like I had a positive impact on people’s lives.
My favourite memory of my time volunteering was on the Monday after the hub closed. Kayleigh put out a call for volunteers to come and help turn the Centre back to its former self. We all pulled together to clear the hall, move the fridges and freezers back to their rightful homes and sort out any remaining tins that we could give back to York Foodbank. Once we’d finished we all sat in a huge circle (socially distanced of course) and had a cuppa, it felt like the end of an era!! I still miss going down to the centre twice a week to volunteer, as it always felt like you were going to spend time with friends rather than going to do some work!!
I want to end by giving my thanks to Stephen from Tang Hall Community Centre and Kayleigh and Anna from Tang Hall Big Local. Who, without the dedication and commitment to the community, the hub would not have been half as good as it was. And of course a big thank you to all of my fellow volunteers who gave up their time to make a difference in our community.
Summer 2020 is definitely a summer I’ll never forget!! Holidays and big family weddings would have been great, but luckily I am coming away from it with fond memories of my time volunteering at Tang Hall Community Centre and for Tang Hall Big Local.