From mid-March, almost all volunteering at Hospiscare ceased in line with government guidance. Our shops went silent and our buildings became much quieter with visiting and volunteering restricted. Safety for our volunteers is paramount as we look to find new ways to continue our services; ensuring a COVID-19 secure environment is essential.
Already our valued volunteers are finding ways to keep involved during this crisis. Roles that don’t involve entering the hospice were easier to reinstate, such as maintaining the gardens at Searle House, Pine Lodge and Kings House for patients and families to enjoy and find a place of solace and comfort. Our volunteers know that for patients and visitors, being out in beautiful spaces is crucial for physical and emotional wellbeing. Our trained volunteers continue to offer supportive phone calls to patients and carers at home or comfort for those who have suffered a bereavement.
Fundraising is vital for the continuation of our services and our volunteers have found creative ways to continue with fundraising activities. They have embraced technology by going online to do plant sales and encouraging friends to support virtual Open Gardens or bake and collect fresh home-made cakes.
Importantly too our shops have started to re-open safely and are managing the volume of donations. This would not be possible without the support of our retail volunteers, like Jan Summers who volunteers in the Crediton Shop. Jan says:
“I returned to volunteering on 10 July; I was keen to go back but also a bit concerned. I needn’t have worried – everything was so well organised – face shields, hand sanitisers, a limit on customers in the shop – all systems were in place and worked really well. I am so pleased to be back, seeing fellow volunteers again and enjoying chatting to our customers.”
For the time being, the volunteering support offered directly to patients is still under review as we look to find safe alternatives, knowing that face-to-face and physical contact is the cornerstone of patient care. Our patients are particularly vulnerable, as are some of our volunteers. We are not limiting returns to volunteering by age; instead we are sharing all of the information about our COVID-19 secure measures and risk-assessments and asking volunteers to self-assess their ability to return.
There are still many roles to which volunteers cannot yet return, but gradually and in-line with government advice, we hope to welcome back our amazing volunteer force, who make such a critical difference.