Supporting the Covid-19 effort through volunteering

Rhoda Frith, PA and International Events Coordinator, began volunteering for the National Health Service (NHS) vaccine programme, after hearing about the volunteering scheme through Oxford Mutual Aid.

She registered with one of the NHS volunteering apps and was assigned a medical centre about ninety minutes’ walk from OUP’s head office in Oxford. Although she knew it would be rewarding work, she was aware that it could be time-consuming alongside a day-to-day job, so was relieved that OUP would support her to use volunteering hours for such a worthwhile cause.

Kitted out in the necessary PPE, she was responsible for helping patients navigate their way around the vaccination centre and cleaning contact points. Reflecting on her experience, Rhoda highlighted some important moments from her first day that stand out in her memory.

‘I realised I hadn’t been in a place so busy since March 2020.

I had very rarely been to the office since then, and I’d seen only a few colleagues, behind masks and at a distance, when I had been there. My working world had shrunk form a busy, buzzy office full of new people to a small, silent dining table, devoid of any company except my own. Volunteering opened up my world again.

Secondly, I felt like I was carrying precious cargo when I was given a vial of the Pfizer vaccine to carry from the prep area to a vaccine room. Thirteen months into the pandemic, seeing the vaccine in real life felt like seeing the faintest of hopes made into solid reality. I’ve never stopped feeling grateful to the scientists who created it and volunteering to help with the rollout has been a huge privilege.

Thirdly, I came close to tears that first afternoon when I looked round the waiting room and saw mostly elderly patients. Many hadn’t left their homes since lockdown began but were cheerful and positive about getting vaccinated that day. One woman even brought a box of chocolates and a thank you card—she’d saved this gift for months to give to the nurse who administered her jab.’

When Rhoda first started volunteering for the vaccination scheme, she expected it would last twelve weeks—the planned gap between first and second doses. However, she ended up volunteering for exactly one year, helping with stewarding and administrative tasks for third doses, as well as fourth doses for highly clinically vulnerable patients.

At OUP, we continue to encourage and empower our people to use their allotted volunteering hours and days to undertake activities that support the communities in which we serve across the world and reap the personal sense of fulfilment this can bring. Because, as Rhoda says,

‘volunteering takes you to places, internal and external, that you never expected.’