12,000 hours of covid vaccination centre volunteering!

Rotarians across the Thames Valley have been volunteering at covid vaccination centres since January, and they are still going strong.

Karen Eveleigh, 26th November 2021

Rotarians in the Thames Valley have clocked up in excess of 12,000 hours of volunteering at NHS covid vaccination centres since January. If we use the UK living wage of £8.91/hour to calculate the value of this we reach £107,000!

Volunteers started in January as the two new covid vaccines were rolled out across the country. They were there in the snow, they got sun burnt in our few months of summer and they are still out there now. They will be working through the winter as the booster jabs and flu jabs are given to most of the population. At some centres the volunteers are inside, helping with data entry or checking that people sit for the required 15 minutes after their jab. At many sites the volunteers are outside managing the parking and queues and providing a smiling welcome for everyone.

In some cases Rotary clubs were approached and asked to provide manpower for the local centres. However in other cases either the club or a particular Rotarian was approached and asked to lead the volunteer coordination. Martin Andrew from Haddenham and District Rotary Club was asked to coordinate his local volunteering and has had the support of club members and the local community since March, when he recruited eighty volunteers in a very short time. While many of the volunteers are not Rotarians, as Martin explained: 

“I always wear my Rotary tabard when I do a shift, as do my fellow-members, …. and all my e-mails have our club sign-off attached. No-one is therefore in any doubt the Rotary is involved.

“It has been a privilege to serve the community in managing the queues, signing people in, timed observations and perforce organising the queue for the pharmacy itself as well (it’s the sight of hi-viz jackets that leads people to assume we are in charge of that as well)…..2021 has been a year for me dominated almost completely by the covid clinic!”

Nicole Hockly from Marlow Thames Rotary explained that their club members assisted at the flu vaccination clinics before Christmas 2019. They have continued with their support of the covid vaccination clinics at Adams Park football ground, serving South Bucks and High Wycombe residents. Their team of over 50 marshals, led by Rotarian Richard Gyselynck, included Rotarians from three other local clubs as well as friends and family. As she says: 

“It’s not everyone who wants to stand outside in all weathers assisting and directing the older community - and observing their varying parking skills! However, Rotarians stepped up to the mark and were motivated by being able to contribute to a vital national effort, help the local community and, especially in the days of ‘lock down’, enjoy the fellowship of others.”

In Chalfont St Peter, members of Gerrards Cross & Chalfont St Peter Rotary have helped with welcoming people to the centre, keeping people in line with covid guidelines and issuing the paperwork. They are now also helping with the flu clinic. Phil Larman explained:

"Our first day of Flu Clinic was in the pouring rain and although soggy by the end of it we had fun.  The Medical Centre were very generous in presenting us each with a sensational box of Chocolates. So we had to come back and help out at the next clinic if for no other reason than to work off all those chocolatey calories."

In Windsor, the two Rotary clubs worked together with the NHS teams to coordinate the volunteers, first at the racecourse and then in the town centre. In September they held an event at Eton Dorney Lake to thank the volunteers. This was held jointly with the NHS team and was combined with presentations of donations to local community groups and awards to individuals. Some of the awards were to members of the community who had demonstrated fantastic service during the pandemic when all of our lives changed and many needed more support. 

Rotarians in Abingdon have also organised their volunteering teams. As discussed by club presidents Astrid Nielsen-Shuurmans and Richard Kirby, not only is this a great community activity, but it also a fantastic way for Rotary and Rotarians to remind our communities how active we are and that we are here to help. 

“It was a real joy to work together on this service project, standing out there as Rotarians. The feedback that we got on social media for that, just made me very proud to be a Rotarian. 

“What an exposure for Rotary. How wonderful for people walking up and saying ‘how can we help, can we get on the rota please?’ “

And back to thank you and the value of making an effort to say thank you and to holding thank you events. As Adrian Benge from Windsor & Eton Rotary put it very succinctly at the Windsor thank you event:

“Well, if we don’t thank them they won’t volunteer again……We have gained three or four new members tonight, from this, just by inviting them and thanking them. It’s a way of getting them to carry on volunteering…. It’s well worth doing.”

Note: data to 25th November 2021. The figures include hours of friends of Rotary when the Rotary club is responsible for coordinating the volunteers. 

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