The community response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been outstanding, with many members of the LSE community getting involved in their local area. Emilie Stibolt (MSc in Global Health Policy, 2020) has been involved in two different volunteering initiatives since lock down, which have helped to instil a sense of purpose in such an uncertain time.
Having studied Global Health, I always knew that global health did not need to be done somewhere far away or overseas, it can start at home. Therefore, when this pandemic started I wanted to help in any way I could. I found out that St. Mary’s Hospital was in need of volunteers and figured that most would be too afraid or unable to volunteer. Since I am young and healthy, I knew that I would be at low risk of being seriously impacted by covid-19 if I were to get it. I signed up at the beginning of April and just a few days later, after having undergone online interviews and training, I was helping out at the hospital bringing meals and snacks to NHS staff, or helping out in the hospital store which is currently being funded by Imperial Health Charity and is giving away supplies to staff. It was really difficult at first since the hospital is so massive and I would often get lost. Additionally, it is still really difficult seeing patients and staff coming in and out of covid wards looking exhausted and defeated. However, the staff are always so grateful for all the work the volunteers do and never fail to show it. The other volunteers and the coordinators are so friendly and helpful. When I started volunteering I was doing easily four or five shifts of two or three hours a week but soon enough more and more volunteers signed up so shifts were limited to two a week. I recently received my 30 hour badge.
I still felt like I wanted to do more to help out the general public instead of just those in the healthcare system. So, I had a chat with my mother who had been living in the same part of London as I do for many years and she suggested the food bank. I looked into it and turns out that the North Paddington Food Bank is just a 20 minute walk away from my apartment. I promptly signed up to help and have now been there for four weeks. They needed extra help during this busy time as they have started doing home deliveries of donated/charity purchased food, which they do not usually do. My daily tasks include packing crates of varied food to be delivered, measuring out essential food such as rice/pasta/coffee into little bags, sorting of donated food, and general cleaning up. There are many other volunteers and the entire team has such good camaraderie, which makes it fun to volunteer in such a trying time.
I have been doing two shifts a week at the hospital and two or three at the food bank for four weeks now and it has kept me busy, especially with exams coming up, but it has felt so good to be able to give back to my community and to see how grateful people are. It has definitely been challenging because I know that I am putting myself (and my boyfriend whom I live with) at risk, but I am so happy to be able to help however I can. My favourite thing about volunteering is seeing the direct impact that my actions have, for instance, when I hand a pizza to a nurse who visibly hasn’t eaten or slept in days, or when the crate I have packed full of food and goodies is delivered to someone in desperate need. It is something that I had not really experienced before since I have not done much volunteering in the past, and I am ashamed that it took a global pandemic to get me to volunteer. However, I am sure I will continue to volunteer in the future, even after covid-19 is but a distant memory.
I would strongly encourage those who are willing and able to help out to start off in their local area! Pandemic or not, there will always be people who need help. For now, I would strongly suggest looking into Imperial Health Charity as they work in many different hospital and could still use some help. Additionally, it’s great to be part of a team and feel a sense of purpose in such an uncertain time.
We’re celebrating #VolunteersWeek 1-7 June so keep your eyes peeled on our social media for more stories. If this blog has inspired you to volunteer, check out our blog on COVID-19 volunteering or one of our other 100+ ongoing opportunities. You can also book a one-to-one with David Coles, the Volunteer Centre Manager if you have more questions. And why not follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up-to-date with our events and opportunities and read our blog for more volunteering tips and stories.