National Volunteer Week 2020: Volunteering in a time of COVID-19
Joint Media Release from Castlemaine Health, CHIRP Community Health, Maldon Hospital and Central Victorian Primary Care Partnership. This year’s National Volunteer Week theme is ‘changing communities, changing lives’, and that’s exactly what our local volunteers have been doing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mount Alexander Shire boasts an impressive number of volunteers, with almost 5,500 of us identifying as volunteers. That means one in four of us, our family and friends, have a volunteer role supporting our community in some capacity.
Volunteers are critical to many local essential services. Voluntary action has had a vital role in helping to build community resilience and target responses to the many challenges we’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Very early in the pandemic it became apparent that volunteering was not an activity that could continue as it had for many years. Most volunteer roles are face-to-face, which presented an unmanageable risk in a period of social distancing and self-isolation, so most of that traditional volunteer activity ceased.
Local organisations that relied on volunteers to help them deliver essential services and programs were forced to consider how to lessen or remove face-to-face contact altogether. They were forced to focus on the overriding imperative to keep volunteers safe while not losing sight of the needs of those who relied on volunteer services.
Parents of children with challenging behaviours, new mothers, those needing support for mental health and other health conditions, and those living with disabilities, were just some of the groups who most keenly felt the loss of face-to-face contact.
While formal volunteering programs were put on hold, the pandemic presented a unexpected opportunity that enabled volunteers to find new ways to give within the confines of social distancing, social isolation and quarantine.
In previous years, we have all come together in the Market Hall to celebrate the diverse contribution of volunteers and the joy they bring to our community. Our ability to gather together is limited by the State of Emergency but it’s more important than ever to recognise and acknowledge how volunteers change communities and lives as part of National Volunteer Week 2020.
Thank you to all volunteers in the Mount Alexander Shire this National Volunteer Week 2020.
Mt Alexander Community Pantry
In response to the current coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis many local organisations are working together to support our community members with what they need. In particular, the Community Pantry supports people in need by providing two types of services: frozen pre-prepared meals and food packages, made with community spirit, care and strict standards of hygiene,
Mt Alexander Community Pantry grew from modest beginnings to a coordinated group operating from Church of Christ and Maldon Community Centre. The Community Pantry is now delivering over 300 prepared meals and support packages to over 80 households each week. These households are struggling to cope with loss of employment and/or safe access to fresh food thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Castlemaine Health’s aged care went into lockdown, our volunteers not only accommodated with understanding the changes, they also adjusted their roles and some, when requested, took on new specific roles. The Castlemaine Rotary Club stepped up to pair volunteer pen pals with 143 aged care residents. The pen pals have been delighting residents with regular letters from old and young, including a group of students from Castlemaine Primary School.
CHIRP Community Health
At CHIRP Community Health, volunteers have continued supporting the community over the phone and online. CHIRP’s youth mentoring volunteers are also keeping in touch with their mentees through video chats and phone calls. Walking group volunteers are coordinating a phone tree of support amongst the participants during the coronavirus epidemic. They are also sharing information about the evolving DHHS requirements and local supports. Informal volunteering activities include delivering casseroles, arranging virtual groups, and dropping off home grown produce into letterboxes.
Maldon Hospital has seen many people volunteer their time to do something thoughtful for residents and drop at the hospital such as letters from children, drawings, books and puzzles. It is this level of community support through volunteering that enriches resident and patients’ lives.