A Time to Say Thanks

The new normal, particularly as we celebrate National Volunteers Week 2021, seems so near and yet so far away. As life starts to take on a familiar yet still slightly strange feel over the coming late Spring and Summer months, it is time to reflect on something that has made a great impact on communities during the pandemic; the display of the human spirit and the achievements of volunteer contribution.

Achievement might seem a misplaced concept as we enter the 16th month of lockdowns and restrictions, but it does feel a million miles away for the initial fears of furlough, the exhausted medical staff, and the school children whose education has been greatly affected. Whilst a sense of ‘normal’ remains an ambiguous concept to us, particularly when mask-wearing and social distancing still form much of our outdoor expectations, at Volunteering Kingston we want to look beyond our limitations caused by the pandemic. We wish to recognise what has been achieved, by the communities we live in and the voluntary and community sectors, utilising volunteers, which has been at the forefront of the Covid response!

Looking around our local area we quickly start to see the evidence of achievement; the results of human endeavours against the odds. You will see Vaccination Hubs manned by both medical professionals and trained volunteers, you will see delivery services, provided by a partnership of public sector and voluntary groups, for the vulnerable and those still at risk. You will see vital food banks, mental health awareness campaigns, fitness groups doing good work, and the return to nature manifesting itself in clean-up operations run and delivered by local people and volunteers. Most of all, what we see is the inspiring outcomes of the dedicated individuals who ensured their community survives and strives in its’ recovery. What an example of the ultimate achievement of the true human spirit!

We want to say a huge THANK YOU to all our volunteers across Kingston and beyond, for making all the difference in such an unprecedented and challenging chapter!

It has been a great privilege and comfort during this period to see how many people want to come forward to volunteer. We broke all our records for volunteer sign-ups – in January 2021 we had 255 people sign up which well over three times the number of sign-ups in January 2020. Informal groups were set up quickly to deliver food and groceries to those who were self-isolating or shielding, a friendly chat on the phone for people who were lonely. The council, Kingston Voluntary Action and Volunteering Kingston, along with other voluntary sector groups provided support to vulnerable people, with volunteers playing a key part.

We also had groups set up like Sewing for Kingston who have made an astonishing range of items, from PPE at the start during the shortages, to items for newborn babies. A sister group, RBKares was also set in order to support key workers with comforting items to help them during this difficult time. During the very challenging period in January, these items made by and sourced volunteers were an important source of comfort and reassurance for staff at Kingston Hospital.

A huge range of organisations quickly mobilised their volunteers in order to help people from the first wave through to the second and third lockdowns. Despite the continued challenges and change of this period, one thing has been constant: volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations have been here for people in Kingston.

 

To continue to celebrate the work of Volunteering Kingston’s volunteers, we will be celebrating National Volunteers Week 2021 with lots of online content, some surprise location visits (Covid-proof of course) and above all, saying a well-deserved huge thank you to each and every one of our volunteers. Their commitment to each other and our communities has been a driving force in the fight against Covid-19 not only here at home in Kingston but also nationwide. The achievement to come when ‘normal’ finally returns, however it chooses to return, will be even clearer. And that achievement will be in the re-invigorated human spirit that volunteers have displayed and owned in numbers since March 2020, and long may it continue!

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