Michelle and Simon join Adur & Worthing’s army of volunteers to help the vulnerable
Husband and wife Simon and Michelle Cannon didn’t think twice when they saw the call from Adur & Worthing Councils for volunteers to help the vulnerable in our communities during the coronavirus crisis.
The pair from Worthing, both teachers, are now just two of scores of people signed up to the Councils’ network of community support or who have joined other groups helping to ensure no-one falls through the net during the lockdown.
“I signed up to help because I feel looking after vulnerable people at this worrying time is the least I can do.”
Husband Simon agrees:
“I saw volunteering as an opportunity to support those who needed to isolate during these unsettling times but I was also moved by global stories of ordinary people coming together and in effect relaunching the notion of a community spirit.”
Since the Councils launched its Neighbourhood Teams to help coordinate community effort more than 500 people have signed up to give a few hours a week help with shopping or just leading an ear to the isolated.
These volunteers are now serving more than 2,000 people who have filled in an online form to request help. These are vulnerable people who may be self isolating, cannot get to the shops, have no nearby relatives who can help or have financial worries. The government is dealing directly with a smaller group of what is called ‘shielded’ people who are classed as extremely vulnerable with underlying medical conditions.
Staff at the Councils have been working through the forms to categorise what help vulnerable people need and then sending the names to neighbourhood co-ordinators to give volunteers a list of suitable residents.
Part-time infant school teacher Michelle says it was easy to sign up and instructions were clear:
“I get a text or an email when a new person is added to my list and needs help. I currently am ‘available’ for six hours a week and have four people on my list. Most of the people I help need food shopping. I collect a list, do their shopping, drop it back and sort money, cheque or cash – this is all agreed beforehand.”
Simon has a similar story:
“It was very easy to register and I received my first two jobs within 24 hours which involved picking up a prescription and shifting a click and collect delivery into the boot of a car. After a month of volunteering, I now carry out weekly shops for two households. We have developed systems through regular dialogue over the phone (I’m now using my landline again!) that are safe and practical.”
Martin Randall, Adur & Worthing Councils’ COVID Emergency Response Lead and Director for the Economy, said the advantage of the system was that it was working from solid information obtained from residents or their relatives who had filled out online forms:
“This is enabling our Neighbourhood Teams to target the help where it is really needed. But the system couldn’t work without the tireless, incredible support from people like Michelle and Simon. We are extremely grateful to them and hundreds like them in our communities who are going the extra mile.”
For Michelle the benefits of volunteering to the resident and herself are clear:
“There is an overwhelming amount of gratitude from the people I help. I sometimes have a nice chat on the phone with them as well, if they’re on their own they like to just be in contact with someone. Our children know we are helping others at this time and I hope they would respond accordingly if something like this happened when they were older.”
Simon is equally sure he is getting as much out of volunteering as those he is helping:
“The most enjoyable part of the role is the interaction with other members of the local community,’ he says., ‘We laugh, joke and share stories realising that we have a great deal in common.”
“The people that I have met through the volunteering scheme are so deeply grateful and look forward to those chats over the phone or from a safe distance when I drop off shopping.”