Our incredible Here to HELP volunteers have now supported the people of Harrogate and Ripon on nearly 6,000 occasions, helping the local community stay safe and well during the Covid crisis. We’ve asked a few of them to give their thoughts on what being part of the Here to HELP team means to them and why volunteering in the community is so important right now.
Nicky Woolfenden is a volunteer with our Ripon Here to HELP team and has been involved as a befriender, shopping and prescription pick ups and is now a marshal at both the Harrogate and Ripon vaccination centres.
Like so many others, I had a feeling of helplessness as the Coronavirus crisis unfolded but I knew that the HELP/HADCA team was based locally at Community House in Ripon and so signing up to volunteer with them felt like a practical thing to do.
Activities I have undertaken so far include food shopping, medication deliveries and telephone befriending. Getting to know people during these testing times has been a pleasure and I feel certain that these newly formed friendships will continue long after the threat from the crisis has receded.
More recently, I have taken part in marshalling duties at the vaccination centres in Harrogate and Ripon. I can honestly say it has been a privilege to be involved in this small way and to see at first hand the dedication and commitment of all the staff involved. Chatting to some of the elderly recipients of the vaccine (many of whom hadn’t left their homes for so many months) was a truly humbling and positive experience.
If anyone is thinking of volunteering – in any way – I would say ‘Go for it!’ You can choose whatever you would like to be involved with and you will never be asked to do something you are not entirely comfortable with. There will always be support from the wonderful team at HELP and knowing that you have helped to make a difference, no matter how small, will undoubtedly make you feel more connected to your community.
Andy Houston joined the HELP team in early January 2021 and has already taken 14 people for their vaccinations at the Yorkshire Showground.
On the first day of the second lockdown, and I realised that I couldn’t continue working as a Driving Instructor, I decided to call round to the offices of HELP to see if they wanted any volunteers. The offices were closed, but I saw a lady trying to push one of their vans from behind the building. Having established that she did indeed work for HELP, and I wasn’t assisting the theft of a motor vehicle, together we manoeuvred the broken down van out the carpark, so the second working van could get out.
And so I’d completed my first task before I’d even signed up!
I’ve really enjoyed driving people around, either to the vaccination centre, the hospital or their doctors, or doing their shopping for them. I’m not a great shopper though, and inevitably have to go back because I’ve bought the wrong items!
I’ve met some interesting characters, who have all seemed extremely grateful for the work that HELP is doing for them. And what’s been inspiring, is the spirit that most of them have shown during these challenging times. Their smiles and cheery conversations have made volunteering a real privilege and pleasure.
Nadine Bleasby is one of the Here to HELP volunteers in Harrogate who has been carrying out practical tasks for people since the start of the pandemic.
“When lockdown began it felt important to be able to do something, however small, to support my local community. It was the first time I’d done something like this, but I figured I could easily manage a couple of extra supermarket trips a week to help out people currently not able to do so and I think I’ve taken in all of Harrogate’s supermarkets over the last nine months! I’ve met some lovely people, some on an ad-hoc basis, and others I’ve got to know a little better as I’ve shopped more regularly for them. It’s not really about the shopping though, it’s about human contact and taking the time for a conversation and seeing how people are coping. That has been the unexpected but heart-warming element, simply having a chat.”
Rebecca Maxwell, 22, joined the Here to HELP team in January and volunteers her time to support people in Harrogate.
I take on weekly shopping tasks and prescription pick-ups for people who are shielding or self-isolating. This involves phoning up clients that are shielding and chatting with them about what shopping they would like, or collecting the list from them and delivering it to their homes. I have also got involved with the marshalling at the Harrogate vaccination centre at the Yorkshire Showground.
Here to HELP gives people reassurance that they can continue feeling safe during the pandemic and continue shielding, without having to venture to the shops or organise for others around them to go when they might be free. Being able to decide on the day of the week, which shop and exactly which items they want, allows people to remain living independently and freely. For me, a cup of coffee is always a highlight of my daily routine and I can imagine its simple things like that, knowing that specific food or drink items are there, that can help people in times of uncertainty.
I have enjoyed talking to people over the phone and coming into contact with people from my local community of varying ages and backgrounds. It has given me a sense of purpose each week and I have felt a sense of personal achievement as well as improving different skills. Any sort of volunteering, especially during this crisis, is worth your time and effort. It is good to realise when you are young how much of an influence and sense of purpose you can feel if you get involved with your local community. If nothing else, during this lockdown it is good to have a reason to leave the house, step away from screens and books and still be doing something worthwhile.