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Case Study

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.

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Maureen and Harry: Good Neighbours Beneficiaries

Maureen and her husband Harry are both in their 70s and live in sheltered accommodation in West Allotment. Due to various health concerns, Maureen has been shielding at home since January, with Harry taking care of the shopping and other necessities. However, as the COVID-19 situation worsened, Harry became more and more anxious about catching it while out on his shopping trips and giving it to Maureen, who is on the NHS vulnerable list. Harry commented: “Every time I left the house I was worried that I would bring the virus back with me and make Maureen ill.”

The couple were referred to the COVID-19 Good Neighbours project where they were matched with volunteer Fearne.  “Josie from VODA was amazing, so friendly and helpful, nothing was a problem and she got us sorted out quickly,” said Maureen.

To minimise exposure, they were able to pay via the North Tyneside Council payment scheme, which allows people to pay up to £70 over the phone, which is then given to the volunteers by VODA so that they can get the shopping needed. Fearne lets Harry know when she has arrived so that he can go to the side gate of their complex so she can put the shopping in, then he can wheel it back home in one go.

Harry also added: “I can’t thank VODA and the Good Neighbours enough, the relief knowing that I am not going out there and putting Maureen at risk is immeasurable. We’ve had three lots of shopping from them now and it has been fantastic. Nothing is a problem for Fearne, she is a lovely young lady and a credit to her generation.”

Maureen concluded: “It has done me the world of good knowing that people are willing to do things like this for us and that we can still get food even though we are shielding. Thank you to everyone involved. “

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