Since the coronavirus has changed UK life, millions of people have been volunteering to help people in their community.
Whether dropping off food shopping, picking up prescriptions, giving a friendly call to people living alone, or helping at a local food bank, volunteering is a wonderful way to help others and be part of your community at this difficult time.
“Whilst volunteering raises vital funds for Oxfam, we are also aware of the huge benefit it gives to people. It’s wonderful that some of our volunteers have been able to keep that focus on their community; still give their passion, expertise and time to their local communities,” says Oxfam Volunteering Resourcing Manager Matthew Croxall.
During lockdown, our volunteers have not been able to volunteer in our high street shops – but that has certainly not stopped them volunteering in their communities! As last week was Volunteer Week, we asked them to share their stories about what they have been doing in their communities…
Heather Jargus from our Shrewsbury Bookshop has helped support her local community by delivering prescriptions and by joining Chatterbox, a telephone befriending service.
“I [volunteer] supporting people by telephone who are isolated, perhaps because of bereavement, because they have caring responsibilities, or because they can’t leave their home. It was originally just working with particularly vulnerable or isolated people but now there are many more isolated people who are shielding at home and can’t get out. It’s just a nice thing to do and a lovely way to meet someone.”
June Richards from Pershore told us how she has been supporting For the Love of Scrubs, an initiative that has enlisted volunteers to help sew gowns and facemasks for medical professionals and carers around Worcestershire.
“I usually volunteer for a tiny little [Oxfam] shop in Pershore. And I do the online listings for women’s vintage and household goods. [During lockdown] I grew very frustrated, thinking, there must be something I can do to help. I’ve been making scrub hats, scrub bags and ear protectors – the nurses and care workers were finding that with wearing facemasks all day the backs of their ears were getting sore and bleeding – with many of us using old sheets and duvets for the fabric. Many people like me dragged our sewing machines out of the back of cupboards to do this – we are not professional dressmakers! We all just felt that we were doing something positive.”
Richard Miller, who volunteers in our West Hampstead shop, talked about volunteering to help a team produce PPE for hospitals throughout North West London.
“It’s a seven day a week operation. We make about 700 [gowns] a day, with 350 people involved… People are absolutely loving it. We have the music blasting out while we’re working. People are chatting, people are getting out of their homes and socialising but we do keep to our social distancing rules. It’s a lovely thing to do – it’s actually one of the best things I’ve ever been involved with.”
Margaret Crawshaw who volunteers in our Frome shop, has been volunteering for ‘Fair Frome’, an organisation that supplies food parcels for disadvantaged people in the local community.
“We retired in Frome just under two years ago and we were looking to get involved with our community, so Oxfam was one of the things that I got involved in. I do a bit of research on the books and work on the counter which is great. When gradually everything started closing down, obviously we still wanted to do some things to be able to help. I’ve just been taken on as a volunteer with the food bank. We make up food parcels for individuals, couples and families.”
Have you considered becoming a shop volunteer?
We will start reopening our high street shops, in phases, from 22 June. At present, there are only plans to open shops in England. Shops in Scotland and Wales will remain closed until further notice.
Each Oxfam shop typically relies on a team of 30 volunteers, alongside one or two staff members, to be open for business. The recent crisis has meant that some of our regular volunteers aren’t able to come to our stores for the moment. We also anticipate receiving a lot of donations after lockdown. That’s why we’re appealing to people to volunteer to help get our shops back up-and-running this summer.
If you’d like to join one of our volunteering teams, please register your interest online.