Caring for our Community: Volunteering
Hi, I’m Paul from Valley Preston and I’ve been a teacher for several years. Since September I’ve been working in a special school in Bolton, a job which I really love.
When lockdown began, I recognised that many parents became full time home-schoolers and other people still had to work their normal jobs, but as a single guy whose place of work had closed I wasn’t in either of those categories. I wanted my lockdown time to count for something but wasn’t sure how to go about that.
In the first week of lockdown, Pastor Michele posted on this blog about how to help the community, and included two volunteer links, one to Age Concern and the other to volunteer for the NHS. Within an hour of reading it, I’d filled both in and heard from Age Concern the next day. The day after that, I was on my way to Aldi in Leyland to help pick up some food donations for them! Since then I’ve picked up food donations from Aldi Leyland three times a week and dropped them off, helped to pack the boxes that go out daily, and delivered food parcels to elderly clients.
I also contacted my local councils who matched me up with three shielding residents who needed help with their shopping. It’s been very rewarding to get to know these people! It can sometimes feel like a mini-version of the market shopping episode of The Apprentice, armed with a list of unique items to buy. I can confirm that as a folically-challenged individual, this is the first time I’ve ever had to buy hair-dye!
I’ve had some brilliant responses from people that will stay with me post-lockdown. One lady who was overwhelmed said, “You feel like you’re forgotten about,” to which I replied, “You’re not forgotten about and you’re loved.” I fed this back to the volunteering coordinator and the story was posted to their social media the next day! I always ask how the client is doing as I deliver to them and one guy proceeded to tell me his life story which was fascinating. One lady said ‘You are a superstar,’ when she didn’t even know who I was which was very rewarding! It’s also really humbled me to see the small amounts that people are surviving on.
Being part of these teams has made a huge difference to my lockdown experience. Instead of feeling completely isolated, I have more people to share banter with, and a socially-responsible excuse to go for a drive three times a week! Witnessing the fast response from Age Concern, and seeing how quickly they redeployed their volunteers, organised free food parcels, and got them delivered out to over 120 addresses a week in their local area was really special.
I’ve been balancing volunteering with schoolwork, ringing the children once a week and making teaching videos for them, which have gone up on the school website. As we’ve been doing something similar in the Valley Kids team, it’s been really handy and I’ve learnt new skills and ideas through doing both.
The words that have spurred me on in the times I’ve felt tired or overwhelmed have been from Jesus in Matthew 25:40: ”Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” I feel like I’m gaining so much from this experience – and I’m not just talking about the cool lanyard they gave me! It’s given me a strong sense of purpose, new friends and the deep satisfaction of making a difference in the lives of those who need it the most.
If you want to get involved with Valley Church’s Coronavirus response please contact us – we would love to hear from you! If you specifically want to help with Age Concern their biggest need at the moment is food to replenish their stocks. Simply add extra tinned food or biscuits to your normal shop and take it to your nearest Age Concern drop off point to help those who need it the most.