BBCVS Volunteer Jenny on the ups and downs of COVID that led her to volunteering
I was commuting into London until 17 March 2020. Many offices had started letting employees work from home already, but I held out as along as possible; the city was very much looking like a ghost town at that point. Looking back now and seeing how the spike in London was so far ahead of the rest of the country, I realise how prevalent it already was in London at that time and the weeks prior.
As soon as we went into lockdown, I started getting shopping for my elderly neighbour and her prescriptions, and offered my help on volunteering schemes & Facebook groups.
Then in Easter 2020 my Dad came down with COVID. There’d been an outbreak in the care home where my step mum was working and she caught it there. They were both very poorly and I’m not sure I’ve ever been so scared. Thankfully both are ok, but it took some time to recover. My sister and family then had COVID at the end of last year as have a number of friends, so COVID isn’t something that doesn’t seem real like I’ve heard some people say who’ve not known people to have it or be affected by it.
In the summer months, when restrictions were lifted to some degree, I was allowed into the office once a week for a few weeks, which was great. London seemed to be just coming back to life, just as, sadly, we entered tier four and then lockdown. I’ve always benefited from working from home one day a week, but it’s nearly a year now of almost full time working from home. My desk in the bedroom isn’t ideal and I miss people contact and the office banter. It does feel more isolated being at home and there is no clear break between work and home.
As well as the gym and golf, I miss meals out and socialising and just basic interaction with people. This latest lockdown has been harder and so many people have said that. I’ve found I can be very up and down and it is also harder to be motivated, and there is a fatigue. The big difference this lockdown. Is that we had the vaccination programme to give us hope.
I’m so proud of the country’s vaccination development and vaccination programme and I just knew I wanted to help if could. It’s giving people hope and a path to our lives being back to normal and having those long-awaited hugs.
I signed up with BBW Volunteer Network and got my first shift on a cold and rainy Saturday. It was slightly chaotic with long queues of people, but it was still something amazing to be part of. Since then I’ve done a number of weekday evening shifts after work and weekends, including an evening when it was -3 with snow still around, the vaccine hadn’t been delivered to the centre and we had to turn people away. Definitely one of the more challenging shifts, but only the minority of people showed their anger/disappointment, overall people are supportive and grateful.
I thoroughly enjoy my time volunteering and find it so rewarding. I love getting to talk to people and assisting them and seeing such joy, even excitement, in people getting the vaccine. During the early shifts, where it was the older age groups and more vulnerable, we were talking to people who had not left the house for nearly a year. It was amazing and did remind me that my lockdown has not been as bad as it has for others. On a couple of occasions, I’ve been given chocolates/sweets as a thank you, or random act of kindness, and I find it so touching
Some people need physical help, others are nervous and need reassurance, many just need to be greeted and advised where to go. I love the people that wave as they leave and for that small period of time you’ve been part of their life and they’re grateful.
As well as helping others and giving up my time, it has given me purpose, to be part of something and much needed interaction with people, including the other volunteers and centre staff.