Interview: Thames Reach volunteer discusses supporting our essential services
We speak with one of our new volunteers about her essential work supporting Thames Reach teams during the pandemic
Volunteers are an integral part of Thames Reach’s work with the communities and individuals that need us most. We recruit volunteers year-round but during lockdown, their work allows services to keep running, and ensures that the most vulnerable people continue to feel supported. We spoke with Eleanor Wyld, who is volunteering with the Tenancy Sustainment Team. She found that she had many transferable skills and wanted to use them to help those in need in her community…
When did you start volunteering with Thames Reach, and how did you hear about us?
I joined a local WhatsApp group when the lockdown came into place, as I think a lot of people did. As a young-ish, healthy woman who had gone from full-time employment to having a lot of time on my hands I wanted to be of use. Plus I wanted to be able to help out in my local area. One of the people in the group asked if anyone wanted to volunteer for Thames Reach and I put my name forward. I sent my interest and experience in an email, had a phone interview and before long I was calling clients to find out how they were and if they had been affected badly by Covid, or if they needed any extra help from Thames Reach.
Why did you want to volunteer with us?
I had walked past the Thames Reach offices often but didn’t know what services they offered. When the lockdown came into effect I wanted to use my skills in the local area to help vulnerable people. Once I looked into the organisation online I realised I had something to offer.
What is the average day of volunteering day like?
I’ve been mainly doing half days here and there. Because of social distancing measures, staff in the offices are having to work on rotation in order to upkeep the 2m distance rule. I have had an isolated desk where I can call clients and reach out to the clients that support workers are finding hard to contact. Because there is a lot of work to be done since Covid-19 in regards to benefits and healthcare support, I have been given clients to call who although may be lower risk, could still be suffering due to the current climate. I ask them how they are coping, if they have any symptoms and check in with their mental health. I ask if we can do anything to help them in regards to food, electricity, benefits and make notes to pass on to full time staff who are swamped with work at the moment. Mainly I’m just someone to talk to. A lot of the clients that the Tenancy Support Team work with live extremely isolated lives. This has been exacerbated by the lockdown so I’m able to listen to their concerns and anxieties and am sure to make notes and follow up any issues with their designated support worker.
I have also been able to help with sorting paperwork and admin that the key workers don’t have the time to sort out during this stressful time.
How has your usual job helped with your volunteering?
I’m an actress and writer and I work in a bookshop part-time. I am used to working with people and I’m interested in people’s stories. I have worked with The Big House Theatre Company and Only Connect in the past, both charities that work with clients through theatre. What I helped with at Thames Reach felt more front-line and as if I was communicating with people who needed help or a kind word, right now.
What have you learned and what is the most rewarding part of the experience?
I have learned a little bit about how Thames Reach and TST works. I have learned how the lockdown is affecting the most vulnerable and have been able to feel useful in regards to helping people get food vouchers or sort out their benefits in this new climate, or just talk to someone about how they are going to cope now that they have lost their job. Cheering someone up on the phone, allowing them to feel listened to and putting them at ease has been the most rewarding thing.
If Eleanor’s conversation has inspired you, have a chat with us about current opportunities that can suit your time availability and skills: firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured image is another of our fantastic volunteers.