Your volunteering stories

Covid-19 heroes

During the Covid-19 pandemic, alumni have stepped up around the globe to help communities.

Volunteers' week is a time to celebrate the contribution of volunteers everywhere, and on this page, we shine a spotlight on some of those who have volunteered their time during the pandemic.

Explore their stories, and discover how our alumni made a difference.

 

Natalie Gibson (Broadcast Journalism 2008) at St John Ambulance

The difference I make...

I volunteer at COVID vaccination centres.

I got involved because...

I wanted to give my time to helping get the nation vaccinated after my family had been affected quite badly by the COVID pandemic.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Go for it! Everyone is so friendly and it's a great way to meet new people and give back.

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Linda Hood (General Arts 1968) at Burntwood Be A Friend

The difference I make...

We link people in need with someone who can meet that need – e.g. collecting prescriptions, food shopping, the things that suddenly we couldn't do in March 2020. I act as a point of contact when people phone in, arranging volunteers to help out.

I got involved because...

I have always been involved in my local community in various ways, and when the pandemic struck it seemed a no-brainer to offer my help.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Volunteering helps everyone – the organisation and the people in need, and the volunteer too. I have met some lovely people through the groups where I volunteer, and it's great to feel part of something and know I can contribute, even in a small way.

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Iola Shaw (Materials Science & Engineering 1990) at Holbeck Together; New Wortley Community Centre; Bramley Elderly Action (BEA); and Alzehimers UK

The difference I make...

I'm now volunteer coordinator at Holbeck Together (three days per week) and I delivered meals during Covid-19. I volunteer weekly at BEA, shopping for older people during Covid-19 and before that supporting at activity groups. At New Wortley Community Centre, I act as digital champion, providing weekly advice and guidance. I volunteer with Alzhemiers UK approximately four times per year as a Dementia Champion, providing information sessions for dementia friends.

I got involved because...

I wanted to develop new skills and help a career change, whilst also training people in new knowledge to support people living through challenging times.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Give it a go – you may need to try different places to find something that you enjoy but when you do you will get more than you give. In Leeds do look at the services to support people accessing different volunteer needs.

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Jill Douglass (Geography 1974) at Leiston Surgery Vaccination Centre

The difference I make...

For the last four months, I’ve been meeting and greeting people coming for Covid-19 vaccinations. I’ve also been supporting the medical staff.

I got involved because...

I believe in the vaccination programme and our surgery has been so pro-active in delivering the vaccine. I just wanted to support the surgery and community that I’ve been part of for 37 years. We are all in this pandemic together. Let’s work together to get out of it.

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Madan Luthra (PhD Biochemistry 1972) at Sewa International, USA

The difference I make...

As a volunteer I participate in many activities of family emergencies due to sickness, accidents, death and bereavements, and currently we are actively involved in giving various supports needed locally an globally to combat COVID 19 crisis at all levels.

I got involved because...

This organization provide a platform serving humanity at large. The mission of this organization is to help people selflessly during emergencies and disasters, promote volunteerism and bring community awareness of the many relevant issues through workshops, webinars of such topics.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Go for it. This is your time to give back to community who made you capable. It will improve you and your virtues. It certainly align with "Serving humanity is serving divinity".

Read more about Madan’s work in our recent alumni feature.
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Chung Pham (Education 2017) at Voluntary Actions Leeds and British Red Cross

The difference I make...

I am a Leeds Covid-19 Community Care Volunteer. My job is to make sure vulnerable people are protected and safely shielded so I would be delivering food, medicines, and personal essentials to them. I started on this role in March 2020, initially twice a week, and still carrying on to this day but reducing to once a week.

I got involved because...

When the Covid hit the nation, Leeds City Council called for help and as an existing volunteer with a DBS and a driving license, I was recruited pretty much straight away after signing up.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

For me personally, the act of volunteering constantly reminds me to appreciate all that I've achieved so far in life, and it empowers me in some way. For instance, assisting a survivor of domestic abuse and helped her find the confidence again had made me feel so much stronger myself.

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Dennis Macharia (MSc Geography 2016) at Daystar University, Kenya

The difference I make...

I am a teaching assistant.

I got involved because...

The University moved their classes and exams online due to the pandemic and this being a novel concept for most learning institutions in Kenya, both their staff and students had a bit of trouble adjusting. I saw an opportunity to help both groups and also get experience in academia, an industry I hope to pursue for a career.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Once you go for it, you will wonder why you never did it sooner.

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Sarah Wratten (Textile Management 1987) at the National Volunteer Service

The difference I make...

I am a Covid vaccination steward.

I got involved because...

I wanted to try to get us out of this pandemic as soon as possible.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Do it! You meet a wide variety of like minded people and the people you support are always really grateful!

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Sarah Masoom (Philosophy 2008) at St John Ambulance

The difference I make...

Initially I volunteered as an Event First Aider, helping people who were ill and injured. I then went on to become a Trainer and Assessor and now run a range of training courses for the charity. Most recently this has included personally training over 250 people to deliver Covid-19 vaccinations.

I got involved because...

I decided to join St John Ambulance following the Manchester bombings. I can remember seeing the attacks on TV and saying to myself "I don't know what I would do if I found myself in that situation". So I chose to make time and learn First Aid skills.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Volunteering has been a really important part of my life since being a student at the University of Leeds. Over the years I have volunteered as a Counsellor for ChildLine, a Leader for GirlGuiding UK and a Mentor for The Prince's Trust on top of my current volunteering with St John Ambulance. The skills and experiences I have gained along the way have been invaluable. I have also made lots of friends and have had a chance to make a positive impact on my community.

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Anna Llewellyn (Spanish 1996) at Devonshire Road Mutual Aid Group

The difference I make...

I helped set up the group at the start of lockdown, and I am one of the four admins who coordinate the work of the group. Between us we monitor requests for support from residents that come in by phone, text or email. Then we match them up with other residents who are willing to help them with what they need.

I got involved because...

The pandemic and lockdown left a lot of people vulnerable and without support. I wanted to make sure that our community was able to rally around and help those that needed assistance.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

It's been really rewarding. I've met lots of fantastic people, and I've got to know people who live on the same street that I didn't know before - it's made me feel much more connected to my local community. I've also picked up new skills and knowledge along the way.

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Ejiro Ikoko (MSc Transport Planning 2020) at Leeds City Council (Oblong in Hyde Park), The End of Term Big Clear Out (University of Leeds), Commonwealth and other International Scholarship Volunteer (Online)

The difference I make...

In Oblong in Hyde Park, I was a Covid-19 Volunteer where I picked up and delivered food and other essential items to vulnerable people in their homes, I also did shopping for some.

The End of Term Big Clear Out for Leeds University, I and other volunteers went to several accommodations to gather and deliver the donations made by students.

For the Online Scholarship Platform, I organise scholarship webinars where I and other scholarship recipients teach and interact with prospective applicants. I also interact and respond to questions posted on the platforms on a daily basis. I and other scholars post relevant information on scholarship, interviews, essay writing etc. We also use the medium to encourage applicants who have been discouraged from applying due to rejections.

I got involved because...

The pandemic and lockdown left a lot of people vulnerable and without support. I wanted to make sure that our community was able to rally around and help those that needed assistance.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

It's been really rewarding. I've met lots of fantastic people, and I've got to know people who live on the same street that I didn't know before - it's made me feel much more connected to my local community. I've also picked up new skills and knowledge along the way.

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Toni Crosthwaite (PhD Food Physics 2001) at St John Ambulance

The difference I make...

I am a volunteer vaccinator for the Covid-19 pandemic.

I got involved because...

I wanted to help in the pandemic. I had volunteered in first lockdown at the Alderley Park AZ labs testing Covid swab samples. They replaced all volunteers for paid staff in Aug 2020 so when SJA asked for volunteers I put my name forward.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Do it, it is important and it gives the volunteer a different experience.

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Sally Higgins (MA Applied Psychology of Music 2020) at St John Ambulance

The difference I make...

I am a Covid vaccination volunteer.

I got involved because...

To support the national Covid vaccination programme.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Choose something that means something to you and just go for it.

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Sarah Newton (Maths and Management 1996) at Reachout

The difference I make...

I've volunteered here for 9 months as a mentor.

I got involved because...

I wanted to lift up underprivileged kids during Covid-19.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Absolutely do it, you gain more than you give.

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