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Spotlight on some of the town’s incredible volunteers

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Liz Sandell

Why did you want to volunteer to help?

Living alone and furloughed from both my usual jobs I felt very isolated from the world. The news was full of all the voluntary groups starting up nationwide and I needed to prove to myself and others that I could still be of use.

What kind of things did you undertake as a volunteer?

I did shopping, delivered prescriptions and walked a lady’s dog four times a week. I still do the dog-walking, but due to other commitments I am not taking on any new tasks.

What was it like to suddenly join a new team – especially in the current situation?

It made me feel incredibly proud to be part of the Melksham community again. It gave me a little bit of normality.

How do you think the services were received by the clients?

Everyone I visited was very grateful. One lady even gave me an Easter egg! But the joy I got from helping people was more than enough of a reward.

Did the experience of volunteering help you see things differently?

It definitely made me feel less alone and helpless. I was separated from my partner of three years and I am usually a very active and sociable person. Being stuck at home alone was very difficult.

Would you be willing to carry on as a volunteer in some form in the future – even when the crisis is over?

I am always happy to volunteer my time and services if circumstances allow.

Louisa Lewis

Why did you want to volunteer to help?

I just felt compelled to volunteer in any capacity I could help.

 What kind of things did you undertake as a volunteer?

As a volunteer I made weekly welfare calls to a number of clients. I shopped for some clients that were self-isolating. I distributed prescriptions in the evenings. I asked my friends and family to drop food to my front door for the food bank. As I got to know the clients, I was able to help in lots of other ways: cleaning out small ponds, planting bedding plants, helping sort out internet connection problems (with the help of my IT superstar brother), online ordering for items no longer available in the shops, receiving calls from the clients when they needed help.

What was it like to suddenly join a new team – especially in the current situation?

I was nervous initially but all of the members of the team were so friendly and supportive. The WhatsApp system that was set up for the volunteers was easy to follow and a member of the team was always available to talk to.

How do you think the services were received by the clients?

All of the clients that I had interaction with were happy and friendly.  I think mostly they  felt completely isolated – they were lonely and frightened and were missing their family and friends.

Did the experience of volunteering help you see things differently? 

I really wasn’t previously aware of the community that I lived in.  I am so grateful to have been able to volunteer, it really made me  very aware of how many people are so vulnerable and of how important it is to volunteer. Volunteering is also my lifeline, it is helping me get through these awful months of not being able to physically hug my children or grandchildren.

Would you be willing to carry on as a volunteer in some form in the future – even when the crisis is over?

I would definitely want to continue to volunteer in some form. I feel very humble to have been given responsibilities and to have been  trusted to carry out tasks. I am very proud to volunteer for members of my community.

John Marable

Why did you want to volunteer to help? 

I felt it was my duty as a veteran living in the community.

What kind of things did you undertake as a volunteer? 

Delivering shopping for those in lockdown. Also those who needed prescriptions and food parcels delivered.

What was it like to suddenly join a new team – especially in the current situation? 

I (already) work as a team member doing my self-employed work and I have 22 years military service experience.

How do you think the services were received by the clients? 

Very happy to see us and very grateful for doing it.

Did the experience of volunteering help you see things differently? 

(It) helped me with my wellbeing and disabilities issues. I could see things needed doing – so stand up and be counted on!

Would you be willing to carry on as a volunteer in some form in the future – even when the crisis is over? 

100% yes.

Julie Arblaster

Why did you want to volunteer to help?

Knowing that there were people who genuinely needed help at point of lockdown and my family living in another county, I supported those in the community hoping that others would look to do this to support my family.

What kind of things did you undertake as a volunteer?

Collected delivered prescriptions, grocery shopping, DIY shopping and going to the Post Office.

What was it like to suddenly join a new team – especially in the current situation?

Satisfying.

How do you think the services were received by the clients?

They were overwhelmed, very grateful for any help and time given. Some were frustrated having had to ask for help.

Did the experience of volunteering help you see things differently?

Yes, to how many vulnerable people live on our doorstep.

Would you be willing to carry on as a volunteer in some form in the future – even when the crisis is over?

Yes.

Leigh Boulton

Why did you want to volunteer to help?

I have realised if I was in the same situation needing help whilst self-isolating from this awful virus, I would be really grateful for any support and to know that the Melksham community really care and are looking after me. 

 What kind of things did you undertake as a volunteer?

I have mainly collected prescription orders from chemists around Melksham and delivered them to the hub ready for delivery by our volunteers. I have also delivered prescriptions from our hub to the vulnerable around Melksham, like Bowerhill and Seend. I have also posted the odd few letters too for a very grateful resident!

 What was it like to suddenly join a new team – especially in the current situation?

I have really enjoyed working within the community and being part of a large friendly and organised team in and around Melksham. Our WhatsApp group have worked really well to help Melksham (residents) efficiently, as and when they need us most in this unfortunate lockdown. 

How do you think the services were received by the clients?

I have had everything from a ‘thumbs up’ to big ‘thank you’s’ from many residents who are shielding. I feel if this support stopped many residents would really miss the help and at times this is the only human contact they have during their days confined to their homes. 

Did the experience of volunteering help you see things differently?

It is literally a great feeling of altruism, caring about others who would struggle physically going to crowded places to collect food or prescriptions and the terrible unwanted feeling and paranoia of contracting coronavirus. 

Would you be willing to carry on as a volunteer in some form in the future – even when the crisis is over?

I would definitely carry on being a volunteer for Melksham Community Response after this crisis and being furloughed. The needs of the vulnerable won’t change afterwards as a lot of people who need our support do have health needs and often suffer with loneliness.

Paul Carter

Why did you want to volunteer to help?

As a taxi driver with no work, and being effectively paid to stay at home by the government, I had a vehicle available and I was offering my own customers free shopping collection, hospital runs etc. So the volunteer scheme was a natural extension.

What kind of things did you undertake as a volunteer?

For the group I deliver prescriptions on an evening and cover trips to doctor and hospital appointments, be that in Melksham or as far as Bristol Eye Clinic.

What was it like to suddenly join a new team – especially in the current situation?

I knew many of the organisers and the work itself is done individually so, for me it was an easy transition.

How do you think the services were received by the clients?

I can honestly say that every recipient has been grateful, welcoming and full of praise for the service and volunteers.

Did the experience of volunteering help you see things differently?

Unfortunately, in my taxi work I see people’s personal, physical or financial struggles most days so it just reinforced the need for community assistance, even outside of these times.

Would you be willing to carry on as a volunteer in some form in the future – even when the crisis is over?

Hopefully work should increase so my availability would be less, but absolutely.

Chris & Sally Carr

Why did you want to volunteer to help?

We are both volunteer lock keepers on the Kennet & Avon canal at Seend. But it came to a sudden halt with the Covid outbreak, and suddenly we were like everyone else in lockdown limbo. We saw the call for the Melksham Community Response scheme and both felt we would like to help those who could not leave their homes. We initially signed up to the big NHS responders scheme, and to date we have had no tasks, I think that the Melksham scheme meant it was never needed here.

What kind of things did you undertake as a volunteer?

We mostly did shopping runs.

What was it like to suddenly join a new team – especially in the current situation?

We approached this with some trepidation, however in the early days everyone followed the guidelines so we felt happy to continue. Currently with everyone being more “relaxed” we now wear masks when shopping and dropping off the shop.

How do you think the services were received by the clients?

It has been humbling how grateful the clients have been, many wishing to give us money, which we refused. We have accepted small gifts of jam, frozen fruit, and thank you cards.

Did the experience of volunteering help you see things differently?

We were surprised at how many people are below the radar and were already in their own personal lockdown before the current crisis.

Would you be willing to carry on as a volunteer in some form in the future – even when the crisis is over?

Short answer – yes.

Saffi Rabey

Why did you want to volunteer to help?

I felt that I needed to step up and help the community and be able to come out of this horrendous situation knowing I helped to put a smile on people’s faces.

What kind of things did you undertake as a volunteer?

I have done everything from distributing leaflets, to collecting and delivering prescriptions, shopping, taking mail and parcels to the Post Office and daily dog walking.

What was it like to suddenly join a new team – especially in the current situation?

Brilliant, I have made some wonderful new friends both from the people I have volunteered for but also the Melksham Community Response team that have pulled all this together. I also feel like a much more involved member of the community.  I moved to the UK from Guernsey 25 years ago and only moved to Melksham eight years ago and really didn’t know all that much about the town or really know anyone that well.  I must say a big hats off to all the team that made Melksham Community Response happen, they have been incredible.

How do you think the services were received by the clients?

The feedback has been incredible. To see the smile on someone’s face from doing something that we take for granted but means a huge amount to them brings me sheer joy.

Did the experience of volunteering help you see things differently?

Completely, I honestly never realised what an issue we have in society.  What is so very apparent is that these people were socially distanced, lonely and vulnerable before Covid-19 landed on these shores and we as a community must make a collective effort to keep this support in place as it will be needed ongoing.

Would you be willing to carry on as a volunteer in some form in the future – even when the crisis is over?

I will definitely be doing so and am actively involved in making sure that this support will continue.

 

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