SARAH, VOLUNTEER AT OLYMPIC LODGE

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sarah registered online with Buckinghamshire Council to become a volunteer. When the Olympic Lodge opened in April Sarah was one of the first volunteers to step up. She was welcomed by the friendly and well-organised staff and found it very rewarding to be doing something useful as part of a team.

What is the Olympic Lodge? The Olympic Lodge at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Aylesbury has been transformed into a special social care facility for up to 240 vulnerable adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a contingency facility to be used when the NHS needs additional capacity for COVID-19 patients. It is aimed at hospital patients who no longer require medical care but need a bit more support until they are ready to go home and people living at home who, temporarily, are unable to remain there because they have no support.

What is your volunteer role? I am a support assistant which can include a variety of tasks from talking to and reassuring patients to serving meals, and general housekeeping.

How much of your time does volunteering take up? There is a shift pattern and I am always with the same team and volunteer for three or four hours, up to three times a week. Thankfully, the Olympic Lodge has not been anywhere close to capacity so I’ve not been needed for all shifts.

Why did you volunteer? When we all realised the extent of the pandemic, I felt I had to volunteer. I have a background in the health sector. I signed up on various volunteer registers and was matched with Olympic Lodge from the Buckinghamshire Council’s list.

What were the best bits of volunteering in this role? I appreciate the chance to do something useful and feel part of a well-organised team. Olympic Lodge is providing a great service and the people working there are amazing.

What were the most challenging bits of volunteering? The hardest part has been getting used to the PPE – having to put on the protective gear before going into a patient’s room and take it off when leaving. I also find it strange talking through a mask!

What difference did your volunteering role make to others? The patients are generally all confined to their own rooms and I’ve been able to provide much-needed social contact and reassurance. Whether it is just talking with the patients or helping them stay in touch with loved ones through the phone or iPad, it all helps.

What did you gain personally from volunteering? It is great to have some structure and focus on doing something useful during lockdown – as well as knowing I am making a difference.

Would you recommend volunteering and if so why? Oh yes – the Olympic Lodge is a great place to volunteer if you like to be part of a team and like talking to people. It is well-run and very welcoming.

Volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Almost 2,000 people have signed up to help our communities as volunteers via the Buckinghamshire Volunteer Matching Service which is run in partnership by Buckinghamshire Council, Community Impact Bucks and The Clare Foundation. Due to this fantastic response, recruitment is paused so that we can match people to where they’re needed most. You can still get in contact directly with your local community response groups.

You can find advice on how to volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic on our COVID-19 Advice for Volunteers webpage; if you would like one-to-one advice about volunteering, get in touch via volunteering@communityimpactbucks.org.uk

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Image courtesy of St Francis's Children Society