Lockdown started back in March and I was still working with KA Leisure, by this time we had closed all our sites and campuses but still had staff in the main centres deep cleaning, mine was the Portal. The week before lockdown I’d heard about volunteering at these ‘community hubs’, I had no idea what they were at the time but I knew if we were going into lockdown then I wasn’t intending to sit about doing nothing for goodness knows how long, everything was very ‘up-in-the-air’ at the time and no one really knew what, when or how things would be happening. I had decided at the start of the year university wasn’t for me either, so I was at a point in my life where I only had my job at KA Leisure and literally nothing else to do.
On what would turn out to be, my last day at the Portal, the news came out that we would be going into a full nationwide lockdown. It got to about half way through our shift, by this point the Portal had been getting deep cleaned for about 2 weeks from 7:30am – 10:30pm, one of the big bosses was there and after phoning one of the business managers decided that would be our last day and we were sent home about an hour later - wishing each other good luck for what would be the next 6 months. As I drove down my street on my way home I was just about to turn into my driveway and I got a call from a phone number I didn’t recognise so I answered, and it was Gavin Ferguson from the Three Towns Hub inviting me to come into St Johns base to start volunteering at the hub. The rest is history!
Upon starting volunteering at the hub I met a lot of new people, only knowing Gavin and having quickly worked out, Shirley is the boss! I Was quickly trying to figure out what the hub did and how to do it, all I saw was food everywhere with lots of boxes and paperwork – organised chaos as it turned out! After spending a few days there I worked out the system, packing food parcels, going out for prescriptions, delivering food parcels, frozen meals, the lot. After a few weeks I had memorised the food parcel list and was firing though food parcels in no time, I was really starting to get into my stride.
Getting to know the people I delivered to, was my favourite part of it, but working on my people skills was really important to me as well. Chapping random people’s doors supplying a lifeline to them was quite a daunting prospect at the start but when I realised most of these people really appreciated and needed the service, I got a lot more comfortable and relaxed in the position. My main job on top of food parcels was delivering the prescriptions, by the height of lockdown, I knew all the pharmacy workers and had a really good rapport with them so it really helped when we had people in dire need of prescriptions or getting worked up about not getting their prescription. I could just phone up, ask for the pharmacist and get their prescription delivered within an hour or find out exactly what the situation was.
Communication with other workers and volunteers was the most beneficial thing I did in the hub. Communicating was key to helping the most people we could in the community. Myself and the other drivers were the front face of the hub, any information we gathered face to face with people had to be communicated back to the staff at the hub because some of it was stuff you can’t convey over the phone. The most common example of this was people with pets, not everyone knew we had access to pet food and on a number of occasions I would notice they hadn’t asked for pet food, ask if they needed it and 9/10 times they would be really struggling and only have a couple of tins left.
Knowing the procedures and types of food parcel, prescriptions, phone numbers, office hours was all key to the success of the hub. Any queries anyone had “Phone 475900 between 10-1 tomorrow and we’ll have it sorted then”... You’ve already had a food parcel delivered today? What was in it? “Fresh food and meat” well that’s the Scottish Government parcel, if you’re happy with that we’ll leave you to it and if you need anything else give us a call… “Son, there’s something missing from my prescription do you have anything else?” Nope, nothing here, do you know if it’s controlled drugs? “Yes it’s painkillers” The chemist like to deliver them themselves so it’ll probably be here by 4:30/ 5 o’clock... I never thought I’d learn so much in such a short space of time just by volunteering!
I really enjoyed my time in the hub, it was a really great team and we all gelled really quickly and went like clockwork. The challenges of dealing with different people and the appreciation from people was such a great feeling. There were so many challenges we faced, some positive and some negative but mostly positive. A few examples I had was a woman who needed Gaviscon for her baby but it was Friday afternoon, it was missing from her prescription and the pharmacy was shut at the weekend. I managed to phone the pharmacist during the course of the rest of my deliveries and she went and got the doctor to prescribe it and have it dispensed within half an hour so at the end of my deliveries I returned to the pharmacist and got the Gaviscon for the woman. Another one was more of a wild goose chase than a challenge! But it was someone who needed needles, turns out that isn’t something the pharmacists do or the doctors and better still, it was arranged at a different pharmacy than the woman is assigned to. So I spent nearly an hour driving about between pharmacies and doctors surgeries before eventually finding these needles that a district nurse had left in the wrong place, they said it would be left in the pharmacy but it was in the surgery who we hadn’t worked with at all but I got there in the end!
As thing’s started to improve, there was an end to lockdown in sight. I had really enjoyed working at the hub and working with the team there, it upset me the thought of not being able to work with them anymore… Luckily for me, the council youth work apprenticeships had just opened up and I was just eligible to apply since it was open to 16-19 year olds. So I put my application in and crossed my fingers! I managed to get the job and have now been an apprentice youth worker for over a month. It’s going really well so far and despite being part of a different team I really enjoy working with the people in the office and I still see the Three towns team for lunch.