Helping communities in crisis during the coronavirus outbreak

The British Red Cross has been overwhelmed by the kindness shown by so many people in the UK who are signed up as community reserve volunteers (CRVs) to support their local area during the coronavirus outbreak.

One of the many ways our community reserve volunteers have been helping during the crisis is by organising, picking and packing boxes of essential items for those in need. In Cambridgeshire, Paula, Rachel and Sarah were among a group of CRVs who stepped in to help. Working out of a central distribution warehouse, they offloaded deliveries and organised them into boxes of essentials. These were then delivered by the Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service to those in most dire need in their community.

“We’ve mostly been packaging up food parcels and personal protective equipment (PPE) orders to be sent out to pharmacies or vulnerable people and care homes – anyone that’s in desperate need,” explained 24-year-old Rachel.

The group also packed PPE to be sent to primary care facilities such as GP offices, dental surgeries and social care facilities. This equipment, which includes gloves, face masks and gowns, keeps health and social care personnel safe from coronavirus while working on the frontline.

Part of their enjoyment has come from the camaraderie among all the volunteers. “It’s always the same when you first start a job or anything, you don’t know anybody,” said Paula. “So it was nice to see the same faces and get to know some of the people that were there and their situations as well.”

“There’s a real diverse bunch here,” said Rachel. “It’s nice. It’s not all just one age group, it’s completely spread across the board.”

Before signing up, Rachel had been aware of the Red Cross’s work internationally through her law degree, but she was surprised to learn from the regular Red Cross volunteers about the amount the charity does here in the UK.

“I understood more what the British Red Cross do on a day-to-day basis – the callouts they get, what to do if someone’s been in a fire, clothing and feeding everyone. I understood that they have an integral part. Hearing their stories and the motivation, I’ve since applied to be a regular volunteer. I want to keep helping and being invested in the Red Cross.”

Jonathan is an emergency response officer with the Red Cross in Cambridgeshire, who helped organise the response.

“I’ve been humbled by the dedication of the CRVs and their willingness to ‘get the job done’ has been incredible. They’ve provided not just supplementary support to our ‘everyday’ emergency response but have been crucial in ensuring our vulnerable people are fed and lives are saved through the PPE distribution network that has been created. No task has been rejected, no food order unfilled. Thank you to them all.”

As our response to coronavirus continues, more community reserve volunteers are being deployed to provide supplementary support to our emergency response volunteers. Small acts of kindness, like those shown by Paula, Rachel and Sarah is providing that much needed support to our organisation at this time and we are very fortunate to have a huge volume of volunteers ready and waiting to help us, if and when we need them.