“Helping them is helping me too… I love it”- local volunteer shares her experiences helping during the pandemic

Sarah Bendall delivering
(Credit: GL11 Community Hub)

Sarah Bendall was working as a taxi driver and part-time in a pub when the pandemic hit. Now she spends her days dropping off prescriptions for the people of Cam and Dursley.

She is just one of almost 200 street volunteers working for the GL11 Community Hub, a local organisation that has been helping support those living in the area during lockdown. These volunteers are monitoring over 250 streets across Cam and Dursey and are responsible for giving support to those who are in need of assistance. Their roles include delivering food bank supplies, healthy meals and prescriptions, as well as helping out in other ways.

Having grown up in Gloucestershire and lived in Cam since she was a young adult, Sarah saw an advert for the GL11 volunteering programme and was inspired to help out.

“When the lockdown happened I was furloughed from my jobs and I decided to use my skills as a volunteer and especially to pick up and drop off prescriptions for the local pharmacies”.

While volunteering, Sarah became unwell, and had to rely on the support of others. This made her realise just how vital it is to have a support network around you in a time of need. She explains: “In the middle of volunteering I got sick myself and for three weeks I needed to rely on other volunteers, friends and neighbours to help me getting supplies and walking the dogs. Luckily it wasn’t Covid-19, but it made me appreciate how important having reliable help is when I needed it.

“I found it difficult to ask for help, when I’m usually the person helping others and I’m so grateful for all the kindness that was shown to me when I needed it.”

Through volunteering, Sarah has found the response from those she’s helped to be very positive. She said: “When I drop off prescriptions I find myself in lovely conversations, admittedly some people just want to take the medicine and go, but others really value time for a chat.

“I’ve had one person ask me in for a cuppa, despite knowing that’s not allowed. I politely refused and had to stand my ground because the person kept trying, maybe an indication of their loneliness or perhaps they haven’t been able to fully grasp the social distancing guidelines.”

For those who are lonely and in need of a chat, GL11 Community Hub offers a ‘Listening Ear Service’. This team is made up of over twenty volunteers, many of whom are qualified counsellors, who are willing to spend time chatting over the phone with those looking for social contact. This service has been running since April.

Annalisa Solla, Head of Operations at GL11 Community Hub, explains: We’ve got just over 20 ‘Listening Ear’ volunteers, and they’re supporting 31 individuals who might be suffering from isolation or mental health issues. They might just be lonely and living on their own and they just want a chat with somebody.”

So far the ‘Listening Ear’ volunteers have spent over 60 hours on the phone with those in need and have had over 170 telephone conversations since the scheme was set up.

Through volunteering, Sarah has found that helping others has been a fulfilling experience for herself. She explains: “The feedback I’ve had from people has been overwhelming, grateful, happy, humbled and appreciated. Helping them is helping me too… I love it.”

GL11 Community Hub has also set up a JustGiving page which is raising money to deliver 500 free food boxes to those in need in the local community. So far they have raised over half of their £5000 target but still need the public’s donations to get the rest. To donate click here.

To find out more visit GL11 Community Hub’s website: https://www.gl11.org.uk/

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