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In December 2020 Basingstoke Voluntary Action was tasked with helping with recruitment of volunteers to support the work of the two mass vaccination centres in Basingstoke. The volunteers would be working on the non-clinical side, guiding patients around the centres and generally helping things to run smoothly. Patricia Langley, one of the Voluntary Sector Support Officers in BVA, signed up to volunteer at Basingstoke Fire Station, the centre operated by Solent NHS Trust.
I volunteered to help at the Fire Station because it felt like the right thing to do. It was fairly near to where I live, and I felt it would help me to explain the role to other potential volunteers if they phoned in and asked about it. I started in February 2021, standing outside the Fire Station in the cold and wet directing patients, and have volunteered throughout up to the centres closure in September 2021. I have done most of the roles carried out by volunteers, from checking names against appointment lists, checking people in for appointments on the IT system, managing queues inside and out the building, directing people where to park and generally chatting to the public, particularly when there were long queues.
What was fascinating to see was the diverse nature of this group of volunteers. There were people from all walks of life, many of whom had never volunteered before, rallying to the call to support the national vaccination effort. People who would ordinarily have little or nothing in common came together to support the national effort and forged strong and enduring friendships. The volunteers have seen the centre evolve from delivering vaccinations to older people in the cold to younger people at the height of summer. My volunteer kit has ranged from thermals and thick socks to sunscreen and a floppy hat. The lines between volunteers and clinical staff quickly blurred and I have always felt valued and part of a team.
The main thing I have learned from this experience is the value of volunteering to the person doing it. Yes, I have contributed to delivery of over 134000 vaccinations and hopefully been useful, but I have also gained so much insight into the lives of my fellow volunteers, we have laughed together, cried together, gritted our teeth together. I have made so many new friends and met up with people who I haven’t seen for years. I will always treasure my memories of my time at the Fire Station, even the 7.30am Sunday mornings in the snow.
Here at BVA, we’re here to support you in finding the perfect volunteering opportunity for you. If you are interested in getting involved in the community and making a difference, please enquire now – We’re here to help! CLICK HERE