Volunteer Week: ‘That Desire to Feel Useful’
Amazing people across Leeds have been volunteering in response to COVID-19 and have made supporting vulnerable people within the city possible.
The Community Care Volunteering programme was established by Voluntary Action Leeds (VAL) and Leeds City Council to ensure those in need could access voluntary support. The VAL team spoke to volunteers that were participating in the Community Care Volunteering programme and collected their volunteer stories during the first national lockdown last year.
At the time of this interview, Alice was part of the bar staff team at Slung Low that had been furloughed. Before lockdown, she worked within the theatre industry and was preparing for a show that was set to go on tour.
Alice gives an insight into how she adapted and why she signed up as a Community Care Volunteer.
How has your daily life changed during COVID–19?
It’s an interesting one, working in theatre. It went from rehearsing to start a show in a couple of weeks and also prepping for six weeks of shows over the summer, to literally everything shutting down on one day and no light at the end of the tunnel. When was all that going to come back?
To be honest, I spent two days just cleaning my kitchen and just being like, “I don’t know what to do”. Suddenly I had all this additional time, to maybe think a bit more about pace of life, cook nice food and exercise and things, which has been lovely but I’m missing the social side of things. Then kind of once I was over the shock, it was thinking how do we adapt, how do we change, and that’s what the vibe has been since then. I do things slower.
Why did I become a Community Care Volunteer?
I think it was that desire to feel useful. Despite the situation, I feel quite lucky as I had a bit of work still going and knew I was alright. It felt weird to have more time. I think that if you can [volunteer] then why wouldn’t you?
It was quite nice having something to do weekly and establishing one thing that was constant during this really weird period.
Alice sorting through food donations
What did your Community Care Volunteer role involve?
I volunteer every Tuesday for the full day, starting at 10am. When I get in, there’s a fair bit to do, usually a few referrals have already come in.
We’ll know that we usually have about 10 parcels that need making up. There is fruit, and veg that comes in and we have a system where we put them into bags then those bags are added to bags of dry food, tins – whatever is flavour of the day. Then there’s a fair bit of rooting through rotten fruit and veg and chucking out all the nasty ones. Sometimes there are little deliveries. As I don’t drive I’m rooted to the warehouse. It’s real glamourous.
How has volunteering during COVID–19 crisis made you feel?
It’s heart-warming. It’s really nice to see people actually working together because there’s so much discord at the minute. It’s really heart-warming to remember that most people, I like to think, do have kindness at the heart of it and are looking for opportunities to work together to make things better.
Have you volunteered before?
Very loosely, in a charity shop for my Duke of Edinburgh award when I was 16.
Message to anyone thinking about volunteering
Just do it, you won’t regret it. If you’re feeling listless, it really centres you.
Volunteers can offer practical support for vulnerable people (such as shopping deliveries, preparing meals, making check-in phone calls) or can sign-up as an informal volunteer to help within their own neighbourhood in more general ways. The Leeds City Council helpline is available so that people in need of support can call 0113 378 1877 to be matched with a local volunteer who can help.
The Community Care Volunteering Programme is not currently accepting applications from new volunteers but there are still lots of other volunteering opportunities available in Leeds. To find out more, please visit https://doinggoodleeds.org.uk/volunteering/