When the first Covid 19 Lockdown was announced back in March 2020, there was a general air of mild panic amongst the population.
Supermarkets were running out of stock of everyday items such as toilet rolls, pasta and cleaning products and having to introduce their own rationing systems. Supermarket home shopping slots became almost impossible to secure, and queues outside supermarkets went twice around the car park! Added to which, GPs (fearing being overwhelmed by demand) were sending repeat prescriptions out early and in batches, which then overwhelmed the pharmacies and resulted in people regularly having to queue for two hours or more (often to then be told that their prescription wasn’t ready).
The elderly and clinically vulnerable were told to shield and we were all told to ‘Stay at home’ and only leave home for essential reasons. This led to a high demand for volunteer services such as shopping and prescription collection and delivery amongst other things.
As I was unable to work as a result of the restrictions, I found myself unexpectedly ‘unbusy’ and so decided when asked by Liz Parkin, to become a volunteer. Back then demand was high and volunteers were in short supply and so a small number of us found ourselves taking care of a large number of ‘clients’. We had very few systems in place and were really ‘making it up as we went along’.
Although for the majority this entailed weekly shopping or prescription collection (from a time point of view most of the time was spent queueing), I did receive a few requests for other, less everyday activities. One elderly couple asked if I could visit twice a week to bring coal into the house from the coal shed (as their young neighbour – aged 72 who normally did it was now having to shield). Still, with gyms and exercise facilities closed, it was a good workout!
Another family that I was shopping for had a very young daughter with severe health problems. My regular duty aside from shopping was the weekly collection and delivery of specialist prescriptions from Leighton Hospital pharmacy. On two occasions the little girl was rushed into hospital and I was asked to pick up her personal effects from her home and drop them into the hospital ward for her. On another occasion the mother’s ex-husband (father of the little girl) was taken into hospital at very short notice and, as he lived alone, had nobody to bring him any personal items. I found myself shopping in Sainsbury’s for two pairs of pyjamas, slippers, toothpaste & toothbrush, etc. which I then delivered to his ward.
The two things that I have become very proficient at during this experience are shopping and queueing. Two skills that will serve me well in the future no doubt!
As lockdown restrictions have now eased, things have started to settle down a little and supermarket home delivery slots are now readily available, demand has decreased dramatically. The only concern for some elderly people is that they remain very nervous about going out and that some have become dependent on their volunteers. Something that we are now having to find ways of dealing with.
As these requirements have reduced, we have found ourselves engaging in other volunteering activities such as a variety of duties at the Covid vaccination centre and student Covid testing at Reaseheath College. I have found all of these activities immensely and equally rewarding and would highly recommend volunteering to everyone who is able!
Nantwich Buddy Nigel (right) with fellow Buddies Carmel Melia and John Burt supporting the rapid lateral flow testing at Cheshire’s Reaseheath College back in March