It goes without saying that volunteers have played a key role in the pandemic response. During an exceptionally difficult year, people from all walks of life around the UK have taken the time to volunteer and make a huge difference to their communities – just as they do every year. On this page we’re sharing the stories of some of these brilliant volunteers from across Sussex and how they have been supporting their local communities during the pandemic.

West Sussex County Council Community Volunteer Team

Volunteering in a pandemic

The West Sussex County Council Community Volunteer Team have already donated over 51,000 hours of volunteer time over the last 7 years working in all weathers to improve people’s lives across the county. When the Covid-19 Pandemic hit this Country the Volunteer Team were re-deployed to the Community Hub to deliver food and medicines to the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Volunteers worked to deliver food and medicine day and night, driving over 5,000 miles in one two month period to deliver supplies and check in with over 200 people. Two members of the team have been awarded The Special Recognition Volunteer Award by the High Sheriff, to celebrate and acknowledge publicly those who have, in a voluntary capacity, shown exceptional acts of kindness and thoughtfulness during the pandemic lock-down and beyond. The work that this team undertook during the Pandemic helped save peoples lives.

Hastings HEART

Hastings HEART is a grassroots network of community volunteers available to be called on to help people, organisations and projects across Hastings. Created initially as a response to the Coronavirus crisis, they are now well placed to connect and support the community using their dynamic team of volunteers. We heard from one such volunteer, Samantha.

Volunteering in a pandemic 1

“I work as a carer and my hobbies include gardening, my dog and two cats. I’m a bit of an old hippy and a pagan. I believe in communities working together and mutual support. I have a limiting illness myself, so am appreciative of the needs of others.

“I first became involved with HEART when I saw the group online. I thought it was a fab idea and wanted to get involved.

“I like to feel that I am a conscientious member of my local community. I wanted to volunteer to encourage relationships and helping each other out, communities can only benefit from local support.

“I shop weekly and collect prescriptions for one household and do some random shopping for another lady. With both, the relationship has developed into friends, with one lady opening up to me about her worries. The other lady we spend lots of time on calls now about our gardens.

“The aspect of volunteering I have really enjoyed is getting to know people I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. Feeling like I am of benefit to people and my community helps my own social anxiety. It massively helps my mental health for all those reasons. Just to be part of something positive.”

Find out more about Hastings HEART.

Healthwatch volunteers

Volunteers from Healthwatch have also been supporting local people over the phone throughout the pandemic. Conor Sheehan is one of them and he shared his experience of working on the hospital discharge project.

Volunteering in a pandemic 2

“Since I retired from full-time work as a university academic, it has been really important to continue feeling involved with people on a community level. Becoming a Healthwatch volunteer on the hospital discharge project this year has allowed me to do just that. My role involves contacting patients by phone after they have left hospital to check how they are feeling and whether they need any practical or psychological support from Brighton based community organisations.

Some people might need help with food supplies or medicine delivery or wish to relay a concern back to the hospital care team. Patients are sometimes just glad of the chance for a quick reassuring chat and they often tell me that it means a lot to know that somebody is thinking about them and their recovery.

In certain instances, people can be struggling with anxiety or other mental health issues some of which have been exacerbated by Covid 19 concerns. It is important that I am able to refer them to appropriate agencies and support groups that can help.

Knowing that you may have helped to make someone’s life a little easier or better, even in a very small way, is a great feeling. There is always strong support for us as volunteers from the Healthwatch central team and this manifests itself in the training we receive. Our regular ‘Zoom’ volunteer meetings are always informative in addition to providing the opportunity for a bit of a laugh together which I think is essential in these challenging times! It has been great to be able to give back a little to those who need a bit of help and it is certainly true that doing so has real rewards.”