Volunteers’ Week 2020 is June 1st – 7th

Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering.

During the Covid-19 pandemic many volunteers have worked hard and given generously to the Lewisham Covid-19 Response hub. Now its our time to say thank you.

The hub, made up of Lewisham LocalVoluntary Services LewishamLewisham Food Bank and Age UK Lewisham & Southwark and Lewisham Council, have been working to help the most vulnerable in our communities.

The response has focused on:

  • The provision of accurate, up to date information
  • The delivery of food and wider supplies to vulnerable individuals
  • Befriending and social isolation support, using phone and IT techniques wherever possible
  • Support to those who are looking to volunteer or assist directly in their local area
  • Providing toolkits for community action to ensure that people are safe as they support each other

You can check out videos of the amazing projects and organisations in Lewisham here in our Lewisham Community Heroes video series.

#TimeToSayThanks

On this page we are highlighting some of the amazing work volunteers have done with the hub in the Lewisham community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Norrie – Volunteer Telephone Assessor – Lewisham Citizens Advice Bureau

“When I started volunteering at Citizens Advice Lewisham (CAL), I worked on the reception in the Drop In Hub. This involved welcoming clients and recording some of their basic information on our case management system.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Norrie has upskilled to become a Volunteer Telephone Assessor. She completed additional training and has progressed to taking calls on the Lewisham Advice Line. In the role she explores the client’s query and provides assisted information; if if the query is complex she will signpost the client to another organisation that can help, or book the client an appointment with an in-house Adviser.

“I had been struggling with a lack of confidence in myself after uni because all job adverts seem to want you to have years of experience to get an entry level position. I had started to believe I was unable to do anything and this was making it harder to try and sell myself in applications and interviews. But the support that I received during training was so much more than I’d imagined! [Since upskilling to become a Volunteer Telephone Assessor] I have felt more confident in my abilities again.”

Norrie continues to volunteer on the Lewisham Advice Line as a Telephone Assessor for two days per week. She would recommend volunteering at CAL to others. “It’s easy to see the positive results which is really rewarding.”

Martina and Philly – Volunteer Telephone Befrienders – VSL

“We decided to do telephone befriending because we wanted to help others during the lockdown. We thought that if everyone does their bit, that would really make a difference.

We have been phoning our new befriendees for a few weeks now, and it has been fun getting to know different local people. At first we thought it might be awkward, but now we’ve go to to know know people it’s easy and enjoyable.

The Voluntary Services Lewisham team are great and always on hand to provide support. We’d encourage anyone who has a spare 20 minutes a week to give it a go!”

Nella Buisson – Volunteer Driver – VSL

“I wanted to volunteer because I have the time. it makes me feel useful, but I also find it rewarding to know that there are so many people being helped. Voluntary work is very important, I love seeing the smile on people’s faces when they open the door and see me standing there with a box of food makes me feel good.

It is not all about the food, but also the chance to chat for a few minutes as many of the recipients haven’t had social contact for some time; this for me is the best thing about being a volunteer driver.

People are so pleased to see me, and are thankful for the box of goodies, often they comment on the comprehensive range of products in the box.

There have been challenges too, I’m quite a small person and as the boxes are very generously packed I now use a sack barrow and this has made delivering boxes possible for me… I just wish that I could do more.”

Sophie – Volunteer Dog Walker – VSL

Buddy the Dog

“I walk a beautiful black Labrador once a day.

Having recently moved to the Lewisham area and when the need for more volunteers was made in response to Covid-19 and lockdown I thought it was an important time to get more involved in the community.

I have been lucky to be volunteering for a wonderful lady and her husband, and the bonus of dog walking has been great! We feel we are all benefiting – the dog is walked (happy dog), the owners are grateful that their dog has had a daily walk (happy owners) and I have loved the chance to be outside and getting to walk their wonderful dog (happy volunteer)!

I have been very fortunate to be in a position which has allowed me to volunteer and the chance to give something back to the community during this time has been important to me.”

Leah Byrne – Volunteer Dog Walker – Lewisham Local

“I’m a phone befriender and a Volunteer PA with Lewisham Local – which has included collecting prescriptions or shopping for people who are shielding, and walking Piloup the dog while his owner is shielding.

 Normally (outside of lockdown!) I work running educational events for schools and community programmes at a cinema group. At the moment I am furloughed, so I signed up for a number of volunteering opportunities so that I could be contributing something to people that were affected. Lewisham Local meant I could help support people in my local community.

Lewisham Local contact me every time they have someone who needs some assistance, and if I can manage it, they pass on the details of the job and I contact the individual to arrange when I will be able to get them what they need. I have a pre-paid card so that I don’t need to worry about collecting cash/being reimbursed for any purchases. 

I’ve really enjoyed volunteering – I’ve met some lovely people (at a distance, of course) and it feels like I am contributing something. Personally I think my mental health has been improved by volunteering as it makes me feel useful and keeps me busy. And I love dogs but don’t have one of my own, so getting to walk a dog every other day is a real bonus!”

Evrad Kameugne Kounchou – Volunteer Medicine Deliverer, Telephone Befriender, Shopper and Cleaner

“Evrad Kameugne Kounchou is a Hero. A remarkable and appreciated frontline volunteer worker.

The 35-year-old provided frontline volunteer support for the NHS by delivering medicine from pharmacy to vulnerable patients isolating from COVID-19 and vulnerable at home, making regular phone calls to check on people isolating, buying non-food items and going early morning 6:30 am to do food shopping with Voluntary Services Lewisham for vulnerable and isolated in Lewisham. He has worked regularly since 22nd April at Lewisham local and VSL.

Ex- British Army HM forces Evrad Kameugne Kounchou said he joined us following the daily increase in the number of deaths of vulnerable people and the death of his friend.

‘I wanted to do something that would stop more deaths and help others’

Even more important, Mr Kounchou Founded Mutual Aid Disinfection  (Mutualaiddisinfection.org). A group of volunteers who frequently disinfected the public spaces in Lewisham for free during the Pandemic COVID-19 outbreak. Mutual Aid Disinfection used self-sourced equipment, targeting parks, buses, trains and streets to reduce the rate of infection.

‘The public response was pleasant –  we had fantastic and amazing feedback,’

According to the World Health organisation, the virus may survive on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days on surfaces of different materials in public.

Potentially contaminated surfaces may play a role in the transmission of the virus when persons come in direct contact.

Therefore, it is important to disinfect areas that are frequently touched, to prevent transmission of virus.

The group have been well received by the public, who have not been put-off by their full body suits.”

Charlene Frame, Desiree Ivegbuna and James Atkins – Volunteer Food Packagers – VSL

Charlene Frame 

“Before this all kicked off, I was working as a hairdresser in Clapham Junction. Like so many others, I have been furloughed with work. With not much to do, I offered to volunteer with Voluntary Services Lewisham on the food packing. Mostly I work with James on getting the fruit and veg ready for the orders. It’s nice to meet the other people volunteering, and there is always a lot of laughter and some karaoke if the song is right! I have recommended volunteering to my wider friends and family as I really enjoy helping the local community.” 

Desiree Ivegbuna

“Prior to the covid-19 pandemic, I was working as a freelance television editor. I usually get booked up and very busy from March up to the end of the year but as the pandemic hit and everything shut down I found myself without work and all of my gigs got cancelled. I always wanted to do some volunteering and I suddenly found myself with lots of free time so when I saw volunteers were needed for food-packing I jumped at the chance and signed up immediately. 

“It has been brilliant, not only does it feel good to know that you’re helping people in need, it also helped me massively with coping with self-isolating on my own. I enjoy moving around a lot and it certainly gives you a bit of exercise and at the same time it is really nice to meet and get to know local people. There is a really nice sense of community. 

“I would definitely like to continue doing this in the future, even when my job market begins to pick up again.”

James Atkins 

“I joined Voluntary Services Lewisham to volunteer on the food packing every Monday and Wednesday afternoon since March. I applied to volunteer as I felt it was important to support the Lewisham community during this lockdown period. It has also been a lot of fun to meet new people and also get some of my friends to be a part of it. I mainly get the fruit and veg ready, and think I might have missed my true vocation of working on a stall! As well as my volunteering, I work for a charity Ataxia UK as a Community Programme Manager. My role is to develop projects and services for people affected by ataxia across the UK”

Jodie Jones – Volunteer Driver – VSL

“I am a volunteer driver and have been delivering food packages to isolated and vulnerable people across South East London over the past few months. 

I am a Primary School teacher and was teaching my Reception class (30 x 4 year olds!) before schools shut due to coronavirus.

Volunteering with Voluntary Services Lewisham has been really enjoyable. They are extremely organised and friendly. They even help to get the boxes into my car, so all I have to do is drive off and begin delivering! I have not once turned up to volunteer without being greeted with a smile, even on busy days when I can see there’s lots going on! I feel very appreciated by the staff and the people who I deliver to. I have really enjoyed supporting VSL and the people who need the packages I have been delivering. It has been a really positive experience in what has been a very strange time. 

I wanted to do something to help in my local community. The crises and shutting of schools gave me, as with most of us, time, which I used to search for local charities and things happening in my community. During this search, I reached out to Age-UK who then directed me to VSL, who I am happy to be volunteering with now.  

I am so pleased I have been able to help people, in some way, during this pandemic, it was really important for me to do so. I have had access to things I know many people haven’t had access to during this pandemic. I have not personally struggled during ‘lockdown’ but understand that for so many people it has been a very challenging and difficult time and volunteering helped to further open my eyes to that. I think volunteering brings people together no matter how different our lives are and hope I can continue to support and share with my community long after this pandemic.”

Share your story

If you have volunteered through Lewisham Local we would love to share your stories! Just send a photo and answers to the questions below to fay@lewishamlocal.com

  • What is your name?
  • What is your role?
  • Tell us a bit about yourself?
  • What is it like to volunteer?
  • Why did you decide to volunteer during the Covid-19 crisis?
  • Has volunteering during the crisis helped you?
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