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Thanking those who have given their time during Covid-19

Volunteers Week has traditionally been held in the first week of June as a way of celebrating and thanking millions of volunteers for their contribution across the UK.

Although due to the coronavirus pandemic the usual events will not be taking place – it is still important to recognise and support those giving up their time for their communities. 

Volunteers have always been the backbone of Knowle West – from running local groups and clearing green spaces to helping out at food clubs and reading in schools.

Bristol Noise volunteers helping to spruce up Inns Court. Picture Ian Watt.

Now with the Covid-19 crisis they’ve been needed like never before  – and simple acts of kindness and community spirit have helped more vulnerable residents during this time.

The volunteering platform Bristol Can Do has seen a huge increase in people registering – while others have responded to call outs on local Facebook sites.

Community Development Practitioner Julia Williams from Bristol City Council works in Filwood and Knowle West neighbourhoods.

In partnership with Knowle West Alliance, her team has built up a “dedicated base of volunteers who are responsive and pro-active”.

They are currently in touch with 80 volunteers with  34 active at the moment – completing over 170 hours of service between them.

Bristol City Council’s Community Development Practitioner Julia Williams.

She says: “…There has been huge respect for the volunteers and by the volunteers – not only doing shopping and befriending, but delivering cakes to the NHS, making food packages, gardening, helping find furniture for a single mum who had moved into a home with only bare belongings…

“This experience has all been about the skills and abilities people can contribute. The relationships, networks and trust that we are building now, will form the social capital of the community going forward that will be even more important as we come out of lockdown. 

“Community will be needed more than ever and I feel proud to be part of a team who is helping to contribute to that.”

The volunteers

Three local residents talk about how they’ve been helping in Knowle West during Covid-19.

Hannah Llewellin (37) an administrator at Southmead Hospital joined up through Knowle West Alliance and Mutual Aid Facebook groups as well as registering with Bristol City Council’s (BCC) Can Do website.

She and her husband Craig (37) have been using his work van for shopping and deliveries.

Hannah LLewellin

“ I did a bit as a kid but as an adult this is the first time I’ve officially volunteered. I thrive in a crisis, I love a problem to solve and a challenge and I like helping others, it was just a natural reaction to get involved straight away.

“In March I posted ‘Free Home-Cooked Meals’ on Facebook and got a response from a granddaughter whose whole family lives the other side of Bristol who can’t get to her grandad other than by public transport – which was not safe or sustainable. 

“We started by providing him with a few hot meals each week, we now do weekly shop for him… We have a little chat to him each week and over the phone as required, he loves the extra contact.

“We also started picking up prescriptions every fortnight or so for a family at high risk. This led to also printing pictures for them to colour to keep them entertained. 

“I created my own volunteer leaflets and posted in Daventry Road and Broadwalk to try and identify those in need or vulnerable and arrange the help they needed. Also, to identify others who may be willing to volunteer who were all signposted to BCC. 

“From this we assisted a few neighbours in the initial stages with putting bins out and shopping, but they all much more confident to do themselves now. 

“We do few random shops in the week as required but do a main shop for seven regulars on a Saturday, three strangers and three family households. We are usually out for about five hours – shopping, segregating items and delivering… 

“…It’s just a matter of putting yourself forward and seeing where it takes you. A simple thing like helping a shielding neighbour put their bins out or having a friendly chat can make a big difference to someone. “

Dermot Mccann (58) works in social care and signed up to help via the Bristol Can Do website. He already volunteers with the National Trust.

Dermot Mccann

“A lot of people are having a really tough time at the moment. The isolation is really hard if you are on your own or caring for someone else – by being a volunteer you can help people feel less isolated.

“My mum also lived in Knowle Park and I supported her until she went into a nursing home. She would never have coped without the support of her family and she had some very good carers as well – she would have found the lockdown incredibly difficult. 

“I know there are a lot of people who don’t have their family around them and I wanted to lend a hand to support them.

“I’m doing shopping and prescription collections… and have done some gardening. I often have a chat with the people just to see how they are getting on. 

“I helped a person with young children who did not have any furniture when they moved into an empty house. We collected and delivered some furniture for the family.

“I’m linked with a couple where they have dementia and they have really struggled with volunteers coming and going. I contact them at the same time each week and have set up a routine with them which will hopefully make it easier for them.

“You meet some really interesting people, it’s tough for a lot of people at the moment and it’s nice to give (them) a bit of support.

“You get to know your community better. It does not require much time – and you can make a difference.”

Kath Morgan (43) ran her own business with her husband and when it had to close signed up to volunteer for NHS Responder, Bristol Can Do and the BS3 online group.

Kath Morgan

“We ran a cabin site in Wales where my husband grew up – we opened in October and had to close in April. 

“I just wanted to help really, I thought: ‘Our business isn’t open, I’ve got time on my hands and I’m fit and healthy’.

“I used to volunteer before at The Hive in Kingswood for adults with learning disabilities every week for four years.  I think it’s important to get involved in the community and give something back if you can.

“I’ve done shopping and prescription pickups for people who can’t get out at the moment. It must be quite scary and it’s good for them to know there is that support network there, it’s a little thing we could do could make a big difference.

“My first shopping expedition the gentleman wanted Halal meat and I ended up going to three Tescos to find it – but everything else has been straightforward.

“I deliver shopping to a lady with cystic fibrosis who is not able to go out, when I talk to her she is so worried about Covid, so it’s reassuring for her and one less thing for her to worry about.

“I would say to anyone thinking of volunteering – you don’t know what you are going to get out of a situation… 

“It’s more about what you can do for someone, like giving someone their medication and stopping them having to worry about it. 

“It’s nice to feel I can do something to help. There’s so much going on and so many people that need support…”

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For more information about Volunteers’ Week visit: