Our Chief Officer, Robin Fry, blogs about VODA’s COVID-19 response:
“To say I’m proud of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak by VODA’s staff and volunteers would be a huge understatement. While I never doubted their commitment to supporting North Tyneside residents and groups – particularly the most vulnerable among us – the selfless dedication of our staff, volunteers and our sector as a whole has been nothing short of remarkable. Here are just some highlights of our recent work:
Good Neighbours Volunteering
To date (17 April), we have responded to 715 referrals from residents requiring support with shopping, prescription collection, delivery of emergency food packs, and gas and electric top ups. The majority of these referrals are received via North Tyneside Council’s COVID-19 Hotline and Community Hubs teams, who we are working closely with. Some of this support has been provided as a one-off but lots of residents are now receiving help on a weekly basis. We have also begun to work with the local Hospital Discharge Team to offer support for residents coming home from hospital.
We are currently collating case studies of both volunteers and beneficiaries but here are just a few examples of who and how we are helping:
- Raymond had a kidney transplant 16 years ago – he said that Shirley (volunteer) getting his shopping was like giving him a million pound.
- Sam isolated himself before the lockdown. He has bad COPD and without the shopping service he would have had to go out which would have been against all the advice as he is classed as vulnerable. He said he will be clapping for us at 8pm on Thursdays.
- Sharon from North Shields has a son with extremely complex needs. She said without our shopping service they would starve.
In an incredible response, we have recruited 231 new volunteers – with others on a waiting list. Many of these volunteers are people who would ordinarily struggle to find the time to volunteer but are currently furloughed or working from home. We have estate agents, loan underwriters, local Councillors, PE Teachers and Vicars among our numbers. Additional support has been offered by staff from fellow North Tyneside organisations including LD:NE, Healthwatch North Tyneside and North Tyneside Council. Look out for some fantastic case studies of our volunteers coming early next week!
Volunteers have also worked with local school children, who provided colourful drawing to be included in emergency food packs for local residents, and have been delivering craft and activity packs for isolating residents producing some colourful results.
In terms of our support for the voluntary and community sector, we have created an online COVID-19 Information Centre full of useful information and resources, which we also share via social media. We are also in regular communication with local, regional and national bodies in an attempt to get vital support to our members to enable them to offer crisis support to their beneficiaries, but also be able to support recovery. This has involved discussions with NCVO, NAVCA, VONNE, North of Tyne CA, NT Council, CCG, Community Foundation and other funders.
NT Life Recovery College
Our NT Life Recovery College provision has moved swiftly online so that it can continue to support its regular users and volunteers, with a new volunteer-led Creative Writing Class, regular ‘Lockdown Lunchtime’ Zoom check-ins and lots of useful resources around mental health and wellbeing support available during the crisis.
In an ongoing close working relationship with the local business community, we have signposted a number of food donations from the private sector to charities such as The Cedarwood Trust, including 50 packed lunches and 50 Indian meals. We have also linked social enterprise Dreamshine to Rain Data who provided them with a new customised CRM system at no cost, to help manage their COVID-19 telephone befriending service, and we continue to promote opportunities to support offered from local businesses to help the voluntary and community sector at this unprecendeted time.
Thank you for taking the time to read this update, and for your continued support. As with all organisations, our provision and information is changing almost daily, so please keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter feeds, and this website for the latest updates.