Volunteers’ Week, which runs every year from June 1st to 7th, is a chance to celebrate and say thank you for the contribution that millions of volunteers make across the UK.
This year it is more important than ever to recognise the efforts of these unsung heroes, many of whom have helped ease the coronavirus crisis and make it more bearable for those who need to shield themselves or self-isolate.
Back in March, the NHS appealed for up to 250,000 volunteers to carry out a variety of tasks, all aimed at keeping vulnerable people safe and well at home during the pandemic. Within days three times that number had put themselves forward and this week brought a milestone moment of 250,000 tasks carried out by the army of NHS Volunteer Responders.
To mark that achievement and thank volunteers across the nation for their ongoing efforts, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, made a statement in her capacity as President of the Royal Voluntary Service. She said: “The first week of June is traditionally Volunteers’ Week, when we celebrate our unsung heroes.
“This year in particular, we owe a great debt of thanks to all our wonderful volunteers, who have stepped forward in astonishing numbers, pulling together to support those affected by COVID-19. As the very proud President of the Royal Voluntary Service, I should like to say that you truly are the backbone of our country. To each and every volunteer – thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
To aid people who are isolating during the pandemic – many of them elderly or with underlying medical conditions which make them more vulnerable – NHS Volunteers have been providing grocery and prescription deliveries, lifts to medical appointments and regular ‘check in and chat’ calls. The scheme now averages 7,000 tasks a day, and 98% of requests for help – which can be made by referrers or individuals – are delivered within 24 hours, the majority (70%) matched and delivered within two hours.
Members of the Royal Family have also joined the ranks of NHS Volunteer Responders for ‘check in and chat’ calls. Over the past few weeks, The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duchess of Cambridge, The Countess of Wessex and The Duchess of Gloucester have been making calls to people self-isolating in the community as part of the 250,000 tasks completed to date.
One of The Duchess of Cornwall’s calls was to 85-year-old Rickmansworth resident Doris Winfield, who has been self-isolating at home. She said: “Having a chat with The Duchess of Cornwall meant the world to me. I’ve been incredibly lonely over the last couple of months and it was wonderful to talk to her. We talked about life in isolation and shared hobbies. She was very interested in my family and how I was coping. It really cheered me up.”
Catherine Johnstone CBE, Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service said: “During Volunteers’ Week we want to say a huge thank you to all the NHS Volunteer Responders ‘on call’ across the country and to our Royal Voluntary Service volunteers, many of whom have been supporting their community and the NHS for decades.
“Volunteering has never been so critical and our volunteers, complementing those from other organisations, make a huge difference and give many people a much needed safety net. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and as members of families, social groups and communities go back to work as lockdown restrictions ease, the support of our volunteers will continue to be needed.”
• If you’re isolating at home and need the help of an NHS Volunteer Responder, you can find out more about the scheme and how to use it by clicking here. For more about Volunteers Week 2020, click here.