We recently caught up with volunteers Rob and Helen, discovering how they – like many volunteers – had to adapted their pre-Covid roles during lockdown to play a crucial role in supporting vulnerable and isolated members of our community.
1. How long have you both been volunteering with The Fed?
Helen: “I’ve been volunteering since returning to Manchester in 2011.”
Rob: “I began three years ago, shortly after retiring as a physiotherapist.”
2. Before Covid struck, what were your volunteering roles with us?
H: “We were both involved with befriending – we visited clients at home, took them to appointments or a trip out shopping, and wherever possible went out for a coffee and a chat. A few years ago, I also worked on the ‘Remember Me’ project in Eventhall House. As an artist, I was delighted to help guide and support both residents and non-residents who participated.
R: “One of my clients was also very keen to enjoy some new experiences, and so I introduced him to the Bury Art Museum and Bury Transport Museum. I was also involved in a weekly project for residents living with dementia which was run by Storybox – which sadly had to stop due to lockdown.”
3. How has Covid and lockdown affected your volunteering roles?
H: “Once lockdown began, we were obviously unable to visit our clients or take them out. Our regular visits were substituted by phone calls which were hugely appreciated by clients. I have been doing weekly shops for a client and delivering her the goods – all socially distanced – and been creating greeting cards to send to one of my clients who I could no longer visit.”
R: “Both Helen and I were involved in the taxi-ing of staff to and from Heathlands Village throughout the most severe lockdown periods until public transport normalised again last summer. We have distributed Chanukah and Purim packages from The Fed to clients in the community, who are often isolated at home. We have also delivered leaflets for a variety of Fed services and events.
4. As we all pray that we begin to enter a post-Covid world, how do you anticipate your volunteering duties evolving again? What are you looking forward to?
H: “Honestly, we are so looking forward to reconnecting with our former clients, face-to-face, in whatever ways are possible. To be out and about again will be wonderful.
R: “Earlier this year, I was asked to be a volunteer on The Fed’s new ‘Walk & Talk’ community sessions which are held regularly at Heaton Park. The participants of the scheme are Fed community clients who may be isolated or experiencing difficulties at home. It is a pleasant and relaxing way to spend a few hours – sometimes the only socialising the participants may have for the whole week – and allows us to chat and assist with any difficulties they are having.”
5. What makes volunteering important to you?
H: “For me, the catalyst to volunteering was the support given to my mother and me during a difficult period in our lives. It made me realise just how much of a difference this type of support can make to people.”
R: “I have always been accustomed to a very busy work life, and so retirement presented a big loss of routine. Volunteering has provided an avenue to use my skills constructively and enjoyably. It also gives us both a meaningful way of being involved in and contributing to our Jewish community.”
6. What does The Fed mean to you, and to the wider community?
H: “The more involved we have become with The Fed, the more impressed we have been. Its diversity, its expertise, its professionalism, and the care it shows to a whole range of people in the Jewish community is exceptional.”
R: “To quote Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester: “The Fed is a model of how social care in Greater Manchester should be.” “