In March 2020, Hope Church in Lancaster set up a project to connect people in need with a volunteer. The intention was to help people who were isolating because of increased vulnerability to Coronavirus to stay connected and ensure that they could still get food and medicines even though they couldn’t leave their homes.
The pandemic has lasted much longer than we all might have anticipated almost 2 years ago, and that small project has grown into a much bigger, district-wide partnership involving various organisations. It will officially re-launch this Saturday as Bay Volunteers, continuing to provide support such as shopping and befriending to vulnerable or isolated people, but now without the specific pandemic focus. Indeed it has ambitions to offer even more one-to-one volunteer support in areas such as digital inclusion, and dog walking. The fact is that something like a pandemic, or perhaps a flood or other major crisis, only accentuates needs that are there all the time for many people.
The Bay Volunteers project is an example of how volunteering has been changed by Covid-19. Beyond the obvious things like regular hand washing, continued social distancing where practicable, and mask wearing, depending on circumstances, the act of volunteering, along with the way services provided by volunteers are accessed, has changed, possibly forever.
Some of the changes will be seen as improvements by some, while others may think of them as a step back. The increased availability of online opportunities, or tasks that can be done from home, or right on the volunteers own doorstep, for example, might appear a boon for those who previously felt excluded by geographical or travel requirements, whereas others might feel the loss of the in-person touch more keenly.
If you live with a health condition that makes the prospect of Covid that much more worrying, you might feel less inclined to volunteer. If you work full time, the expanded options for offering flexible support to others might encourage you to do something that felt out of reach before.
How has your view of volunteering changed during the pandemic? Did you volunteer before but stop? Did you start to help out and have carried on? Whatever your view, we would love to hear from you. You can find Lancaster District CVS on Facebook and Twitter.