Published: 07:19 PM, 04 June 2021 Last Update: 07:37 PM, 04 June 2021
Living through a pandemic hasn’t been easybut seeing how our community has pulled together during this time has beentruly inspiring. During the Covid-19 outbreak, almost half of people (47 percent) across England have volunteered independently, with 21 percentvolunteering through organisations and or clubs. From keeping in touch withthose who have difficulty getting out and about to delivering shopping andessentials to people who are particularly vulnerable, small acts of kindnesshave made a big difference.
When the NHS appealed for volunteerresponders to join the Covid-19 effort, it hit it’s initial quarter of amillion targets within less than 24 hours. The enthusiasm to show kindness toothers has been outstanding.
To mark Volunteers’ Week, we spoke to threevolunteers about their experiences helping others in their community throughone of the hardest times in memory.
When customers struggled to get hold ofstaple foods such as bread, milk and eggs during the first lockdown, ReenaChotai, 45, and her husband Henal stepped in.
The cafe owners set up a home deliveryservice, using their access to wholesalers to provide local residents withnecessities. “It was something that we felt that we had to help with, as partof the community and we couldn't let people in need go without the basicessentials. We did all this via the cafe and then teamed up with London'sCommunity Kitchen, with whom we still work closely alongside,” Reena said.
The couple’s efforts to support theircommunity didn’t stop there.
“We also started weekly snack donations forthe excellent NHS staff at Northwick Park Hospital which we raised money forvia our fundraising page. This was [in conjunction with] LNWH Charity.”
Since April last year, their donations havehelped frontline workers in the NHS, police and fire services.
Inspired by Marcus Rashford, Reena andHenal supported the footballer’s free school meals campaign, opening up theircafe in Pinner as a provider and main collection point for hot school lunches.
“We feel it's our duty to help the localcommunity where we can; we are fortunate to have access to the foods and itemsthat people were in need of,” Reena said.
Reena and Henal have both had two doses ofthe Covid vaccine and undertake regular rapid testing to keep themselves andothers safe while they volunteer.
Reena encourages people to take the Covidvaccine when they’re invited to. “I lost my uncle to Covid last May and it'sbeen an incredibly tough year for my aunt and the wider family,” she said.“Please do not hesitate; the vaccine is safe and not only will protect you, butthose around you.”
Aarti Sawhney, who is also vaccinated,spent time volunteering with Khalsa Aid International during thepandemic.
“I wanted to make a physical difference andI wanted to help those in need. I wanted to help try and support the NHS,” the39-year-old marketing consultant said.
She added: “I just couldn't sit back andwatch it on TV. It was heartbreaking to see what was happening on my owndoorstep, it was important to stay involved and I just wanted to give backselflessly.”