We asked Studley Isolation Support Group volunteer Diane D to tell us what the experience of volunteering in a pandemic has been like for her.
When Ruth messaged me to ask “Do you fancy writing me a piece about what you have done as a volunteer? Siân would like a blog post for the Enjoyably Studley website’’, there was a moment of oh my goodness I can’t do that, that’s a bit scary. So, I asked Ruth “how long before she wants it?’’ and then I said ‘’I can give it a go’’!!!
When we first went into lockdown a bid went out on social media from Amy, asking if people would like to volunteer to be part of Studley Isolation Support Group and I thought, oh my goodness, I don’t know if I can do that, it might be a bit much for me, it really puts me out my comfort zone. I am naturally a very shy person, so meeting people I don’t know, really, really is a big thing for me. I was also working a 30 hour week, and trying to home-school two children, so I definitely thought it was too much for me at the time….so I volunteered anyway!
I sent Amy my name, and number and said whether I was DBS checked or not, and became one of the many volunteers for Studley Isolation Support Group. I absolutely love being a part of this group.
Within no time at all the requests started coming through. Can somebody walk Ernie the dog, can somebody drop something down to the food bank, can somebody do shopping in Waitrose, Aldi, Co-Op, Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s, does anybody know where the self-raising flour/baking powder/plain flour is at the moment?
I worked for 16 years in banking so didn’t really want to get involved with money, and I knew that if I went shopping for somebody that I would get the wrong butter and feel bad about it. Then came a message asking for somebody to collect a prescription from the pharmacy, and deliver the medication to a shielding/vulnerable person?. The light bulb went on.
My very first job, when I was 14, was working in a Pharmacy. I did evenings, Saturdays and Sundays, and that became my very first full-time job from school, so I thought yeah go on I’ll volunteer for that one.
Then the medicine requests came in thick and fast, and we thought it would be a really, really, good idea to just have two people on the Pharmacy run. I do Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and Ann does Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s become a job that we own, it’s almost as precious as my children ;) and we manage it well we are told. We love interacting with the people who work at the Pharmacy, and Vicky in particular. If you set one foot over that threshold when there is one more person in the Pharmacy, you’re told get out in the uncertain terms by Vicki, who I believe can administer a good drop kick!
Each pharmacy day is very, very, different and obviously I only do half day on a Saturday (as the Pharmacy closes at lunchtime), but the other two are definitely full days. I have described Thursday as the day I like most in the week, it’s the most challenging, but it’s the day I enjoy the most.
We get a good morning message about 9 o’clock, obviously I say good morning back, and then the prescription requests keep coming. For me it works best when they hit me with the requests as they come in, and I make a list by roads/driving route order. Using a great tipoff from Ann, I tend to wait until lunchtime and then drop the list to the Pharmacy and say that I’ll be back in an hour or two, and then I go away for a few hours. This gives the staff time to collate the orders, and prevents me having to hang around in the Pharmacy waiting for an order to be found or prepared.
I tend to take my little buddy with me. He’s Owen, he’s 11 and he’s got high functioning autism, so it does him the world of good to get out and keep his mind active, and things going on for him. He has the bag on his lap and he says to me we’re going to go to this person, we are going to go to this address, and I’ll let him organise me (or let him think that he organises me)!
We’ve had some great fun on the Pharmacy run, and we actually missed a complete massive house on the Bromsgrove Road. The caller even said they’re on the corner of ‘this road’ and the Bromsgrove Road. I was stood there looking around thinking where the heck is this house? I could see Owen in the car pointing behind me, and there is the house, probably a three-storey house, bold as brass right behind me. We found it!
We tend to notice unusual events on the run… something that’s a little bit unusual and we did actually see a drug deal going on, and we had to make a 101 call. That was quite an interesting one, and then, in the middle of the day, there was an outdoor light on, outside an elderly person’s bungalow. Something didn’t seem right, so we messaged the Studley Isolation Support Group and they sent one of the first responders out. Luckily everything was fine.
I think initially my neighbours must’ve thought we were merrily flouting Lockdown Rules, and we were going out multiple times three days a week. They must’ve thought gosh where is she going, and what is she doing, she can’t possibly be keeping Covid rules. Then we started delivering prescriptions to people nearby and it was actually highlighted on the Isolation Support Group Facebook Page, and my neighbours have been absolutely brilliant. They know that if I have got my Lanyard round my neck, and the sticker on the car , and it’s a certain day, we are off out and about doing stuff. We are definitely not watching Netflix and box sets.
So, to describe an average Thursday, the day that we like the best, is leaving the house around lunchtime-ish we go and collect a package from a lady who lives around the corner from us. Her father is the oldest resident at Four Acres. She can’t go and visit him at the moment as visits are suspended, and she is isolating. We collect the little red package with his name on, and his room number, and give the lady a wave, and then we’re off to Four Acres. We stop at Fours Acres, we put the package down and we ring the doorbell, step back to the car, and then somebody will come to the door. We say a package is for the resident, give a little wave, and then we’re off.
The next thing that we do is post a few letters for the same lady, a few of them used to have stamps on. We noticed the addresses and we’ve actually said to lady now that if it’s in Studley we will deliver them, don’t put a stamp on. The last thing we want to happen is for those letters to go in the post-box, go to the mail sorting office, gather a few more germs, come back to Studley area, get delivered by the post person literally a couple of roads around the corner, and spread more germs
The next stop is the Pharmacy, and we drop in quite a long list. I think last Thursday it was eight items, and Vicky is really, really, good. She spots my little red car, and she’ll come out and take our list, and we will pop back an hour or so later and collect the medicines from her, then we will deliver them.
Whilst we’re waiting to return we go on a search of discovery e.g. We found Rough Hill Farm Shop, which is brilliant. Why we never visited Rough Hill Farm before I really don’t know. It’s a lovely family business, and I’ve been getting compost from them, seedlings and flowers, and my garden is now looking beautiful.
We also use that slot to fetch my work from The Town Hall in Redditch, so that I can process it at home, or we do a bit of our own shopping. Obviously, when we do go shopping, we are aware of a list of highlighted prized items like fresh yeast, self-raising flour, plain flour, baking powder, café latte for Sam (one of our volunteers). That is a really good run, we love doing that one, and we will actually photograph shelves pop the photo in the group, and say there is flour available at this shop today. We’ve even bought a couple of the ‘usual suspects’ and we put them in my porch now. Ruth has THE magic porch but we have the SUB porch, so if anybody needs a bag of self-raising flour in a hurry they can message me, yeah I’ve got flour there come and collect it! Saves a hunt and standing in huge queues too.
The Pharmacy runs are a bit like a treasure hunt. We tend to spot random things and we post random stuff into the Isolation Group and main Facebook Page for the Isolated people to look at. Recently we went up to Redditch, just a very quick trip, we needed something really urgently from Pound Land, so we wrote about how we found town, how the roads were getting busy and the roadworks were appearing again, the fact that the Kingfisher was almost completely deserted except for a few random shops, how they had introduced one-way systems and the plastic screens staff had to work behind, how baskets were sanitised, what the payment methods were. Basically just anything that we thought might be useful, it kind of enlightened people to what things were like out there. If you have been shielding for 12 weeks it would be very, very, strange going back now to the Kingfisher Centre, without having a little bit of an insight as to what it’s like.
We have met some lovely, lovely, people, and we’ve been to roads we really didn’t know existed in Studley. I’m not from Studley originally, and I find the easiest way for me to find an unknown road is still by going to Rightmove and put the road name in, then you get a little map. I know roughly where it is then. The funniest one was actually doing that with the road that was literally 2 to 3 roads away from where we actually live, but you know what? I know where it is now!
We have done random things. We aided and abetted Mike’s Go Fund me project, and I’m probably now banned from a lot of local sites for spreading the Fundraising love…it was worth it. Owen & I have distributed masks from Alix & Mike. We have delivered 2 lots of support group leaflets now, 2 lots of gifts to Isolators from Studley Castle & SISG. We have aided and abetted friends who needed news stories & Sian & her children are now regular stars on Central News, the Lancasters’ were in the Standard, and Owen and I were on Heart FM doing ten to Thank you! Boy that was scary. We have delivered controlled medications, and we have dealt in new currencies such as paracetamol & vegetable plants. We have traded jigsaws, books & strawberry plants to keep people amused.
We have also hopefully made some lovely new friends for life now.
At first delivering the prescriptions was kind of business like. You know people really are grateful, and we were very, very, polite. Now we have a little bit of a chat, and a laugh. A few people have had a visit from the gift fairy who may have delivered a bag of mixed fruits, or a birthday card, or something random. We have built up a nice little relationship with some of the people we deliver to now.
I’ve always said the one thing in life I did need was more time and now I have got more time at home I know exactly what I do with it! I fill it!
My Mum is isolated, with my Dad, over in Monks Path, and they are cleaning and polishing, and decorating their house to within an inch of its life, and it’s a really good job they’re not visiting mine at the moment. I am quite house proud, but with three of us actually living here 24/7 it’s looking a little bit jaded around the edges right now, but when I look back in 30/40 years’ time, and people say “What did you do during the Covid outbreak in 2020?” Then I can proudly say that I got busy, and I helped people, and it was really, really, rewarding.