By Matt Saunders, Marketing & Communications Assistant
Twenty-one months have now passed since the fateful announcement of our first national lockdown, ushering in rapid and alarming change across the nation, as life was turned upside-down for everyone.
A week before this announcement, we launched the Torbay Community Coronavirus Helpline (now Torbay Community Helpline), with a mission of helping Torbay residents through these weird and uncertain times, and you, the people of Torbay, answered our call for volunteers in droves, without a moment’s hesitation.
And now, we must ask if anyone can lend that same generous spirit over the coming weeks.
Our team of Vaccination Marshals at the Riviera Centre in Torquay have been working their socks of since vaccinations began almost a year ago. They are now in urgent need of cover over Christmas and New Year, as the drive to provide more boosters as protection against the Omicron variant has led to record numbers of vaccination walk-ins and bookings, with online booking systems crashing due to the high demand.
If you can be a reassuring presence, helping guide people in and around as they get these important vaccinations, and fancy doing your part, do contact the Torbay Community Helpline as soon as possible – call 01803 446022, or use the online form, found at bit.ly/torbayhelpline. A few hours training will be required on the week commencing 20th Dec, so you will need to be available that week.
One type of volunteer that has been requested around the bay are drivers – Torbay Community Helpline is again looking for volunteers who can help with deliveries and transport, so get in touch if your wheels are ready. Karing, a transport group for vulnerable people such as those who are older, poorly or frail, are looking for more volunteer drivers – contact Karing for more details on 01803 524799. Ourbus Torbay, a scheme with volunteer bus drivers who operate 16-seater vehicles, are looking for any help from those with a clean license, that includes a D1 category, and are happy to chat with their passengers. For more details, call Kelly Bedoyan on 07816 407495, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being a helpline, our call handlers are the first point of contact for hundreds of important cases of help requests, offers of help and alike. The team do a fantastic job answering a wide range of questions and being a first point of contact for many in their most desperate hours – hence why our helpline’s tagline is “One call, that’s all”. We’re asking for any volunteers who are happy to work along our team to take these calls, are attentive to detail, and feel confident recording these on a digital database, to volunteer as a call-handler. In fact, your first step will be to contact the helpline to apply – call 01803 446022.
Another extremely vital role involving the ability to lend a friendly ear over the phone is our Telephone Befriender team. These are a group of volunteers who are willing to listen to a fellow resident of the bay, are open for a chat, and feel prepared to check in with those they’re befriending to see if all’s okay as little or as much as required. Like all these volunteer roles, support is on hand from staff at the Torbay Community Helpline, Torbay Community Development Trust and its partners, along with training and regular contact, so if you feel you could make a difference to someone by simply being there to listen, we’d like to invite you to be a Befriender.
An important detail to note – Torbay Community Helpline will be operating on reduced hours over Christmas and New Year’s. On Christmas eve (Friday 24th) the lines will close at 1pm, staying closed 25th-28th Dec, and 1st Jan-3rd Jan. The lines will be open 10am-1pm 29th-31st Dec, and returning to normal hours from 10am on 4th Jan.
To ensure help is still on hand over this period, alternate contact details will be available for specific services still operating between 24th December & 4th January, such as PATH Torbay for food parcels on 07763 398238 (all numbers will be listed on the voicemail response callers will hear while the helpline is closed).
For any volunteering opportunities not listed above in the bay – either ones you’d like to find, or ones you’d like to share, we’d highly recommend going to Torbay Together, the sharing website, at www.torbaytogether.org.uk, where you can find a great deal of local services, groups, activities, opportunities and ways to share your time, including the timebank.