Covid 19 changes direction for voluntary drivers in Rochdale

Following our feature on Heywood, Middleton Rochdale Circle, our Reporter Mike Dodd caught up with volunteer drivers Liesl Beckles and Allan Seager to find out how one of the organisation’s key services has adapted to meet people’s needs in lockdown: 

If there are any positives to take from the pandemic, one has to be the way people have volunteered their time to help people in their communities.

And volunteering to help connect isolated people with critical services has been a lifeline for some members of HMR Circle.

Liesl Beckles, a school governor and mum, learned of the Volunteer Drivers Service from friends at the Littleborough Lions Club and decided to help out with HMR Circle’s growing demand. Allan Seager, from Thornham, a keen cyclist and fell walker, watched a programme on the television about HMR Circle, and on the back of that decided to volunteer there and then as a driver.

Both started their volunteering journeys before the current crisis hit – when the role looked a lot different. They enjoyed the experience of helping others less fortunate than themselves to stay connected with their community: picking up Members and taking them to the supermarket; doctors’ surgeries; Adult Day Care Centres; the dentist; health centres; libraries; hairdressers and luncheon clubs.

As the crisis hit, abruptly the abnormal became the norm. Without hesitation both Liesl and Allan, together with the other volunteer drivers, agreed to adapt their volunteer driver roles to support the most vulnerable impacted by the crisis, with Allan explaining: “Where I can, I believe it’s important to be of use to others in these uncertain times.”

No longer able to deliver the regular ‘pick up and deliver’ service, they undertook to deliver shopping to the door for the self-isolating – which has not been as easy as it sounds with queues, absences of requested items and substitutes that might not be acceptable. The drivers have also picked up, prescriptions from the chemists; delivered PPE to doctor’s surgeries – all of course, at short notice, because of the absolute need. The role has been met with gratitude by both volunteers and the Members they are helping, as Liesl said: “The thanks and the smiles of the recipients are so gratifying and make my juggling around of other commitments so worthwhile.”

Both volunteers have emphasised how satisfying and rewarding the driving experiences were.

The VDS Coordinator Mary Burke, cannot praise her Volunteer Drivers enough, saying that “All the team have done a fantastic and excellent job, responding at short notice to anything and everything they have been asked to do.”

Mary also thanked Rochdale Adult Care for its support in delivering the Service.

For more details of the Volunteer Driver Service, please visit: http://hmrcircle.org.uk/aboutvds

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