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Leigh Culyer: Good Neighbours Volunteer

After seeing a number of posts on social media about supporting the most vulnerable residents of North Tyneside during the COVID-19 lockdown, retired Head Teacher Leigh Culyer from North Shields enlisted to help by joining VODA’s Good Neighbours and the national Good Sam scheme.

Leigh, who is currently studying to be a counsellor at Newcastle College was keen to help people isolating and shielding who would be unable to shop, access essential services and pick up medication. Leigh commented: “I worried that many of these people could be alone and without families or friends to support them. I felt that if I could help in a small way it might make things easier for those most vulnerable who needed support”. Leigh now has four regulars that she shops for each week, as well as delivering prescriptions and topping up gas and electricity.

One of Leigh’s regulars is an elderly lady who lives alone and has existing health conditions and will be isolating at least until the end of June. Her family live in another part of the country and are key workers. Leigh has been delivering shopping to her since the beginning of the lockdown and is the only person she sees from week to week. Their relationship has developed from volunteer and beneficiary to good friends, with Leigh planning to continue her visits when lockdown is over.

Leigh has loved all aspects of the volunteering role, but the biggest part has been getting to know the residents. “The feeling of a community who works together for the benefit of others has been really special. The organisation and the people running the project have been so friendly, helpful and efficient. Overall, the project has brought so many people together for the needs of others – a great positive to come out of this crisis.”

When asked if she would recommend volunteering to others, Leigh said: Definitely, it’s a great way to give some of your time and skills to benefit and support others. You will meet new people, feel part of a community and put a smile on someone’s face. Giving just a little of your time can mean a great deal to others.”

*Photo shows Leigh with her new grandson Albert, born a few weeks before the lockdown.