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Volunteering at the Covid Frontline

Volunteering at the Covid Frontline, what’s it like?  Could you do it?  A Soroptimist East London member has been volunteering at the Covid frontline in vaccination centres.  So far, she has worked two volunteer shifts at different Covid vaccination centres in east London.  We’re so impressed that we interviewed her about her experiences.  Read on to learn more ……

Vaccination Covid
Soroptimist East London member helping covid vaccination

“What does volunteering at a covid vaccination centre involve? 

It involves being a friendly, welcoming face and being flexible!   There are so many things to do: anything from marshalling people inside or outside; asking the initial screening questionnaire to all new arrivals; registering people; making refreshments for staff and volunteers; cleaning tables and surfaces; keeping people moving from waiting area to vaccination area; answering people’s questions or referring them to medical staff; giving out vaccination cards, or looking after the recovery room.

What was your first shift like? 

I arrived to find a long queue of people standing outside the medical centre in east London.  I was sent to the first floor to take over the busy role of keeping a constant flow of people moving from the registration area upstairs, to the “pre-jab” waiting area.  There was a clear system, and it did work but was close to being overwhelmed.  There was a huge sense of everyone doing their best in the circumstances.  There absolutely is not a functioning NHS IT system for this sort of task (advice for anyone being vaccinated: take a pen!).  Everyone who attended for a vaccination, filled in a paper form, was issued with a queue number and was vaccinated in that order.

I went up and down the stairs between floors, collecting batches of 4 to 7 people and bringing them to the waiting area.  There were several vaccination stations, staffed by doctors, nurses and army medics.  Everyone was working very hard, with no ceremony, no glamour and no nonsense.   It was my job to ensure they had a steady stream of “customers” at all times.  Often I would forget what numbers I was supposed to be shouting out on my journey between floors, and would end up asking “any numbers in the 230s left?  240s? Yes, 242, 243, come on down!” There was not, as they say on the radio show “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue”, a laser display board.

What was the atmosphere like? 

Most people attending for vaccination were cheerful, some were nervous, and some needed to rest on a chair in the queue.  Meanwhile, the midwife clinic based at the same centre was operating as normal.  I soon learned that any woman with a bump was to be directed to a different corner.  Mothers and fathers visiting to attend the midwife clinic looked somewhat stunned at the scenes that confronted them.  Pregnant women had to unceremoniously collect sample bottles from the shared reception desk as the next batch of vaccination recipients descended.  Prams now competed with wheelchairs and walking frames for space in the lifts.

Someone brought me a cup of extremely sweet chai tea partway through my shift. I just had time to remove my mask and swig it down before running upstairs yet again calling out: “345, 346, 347?! Yes, you can leave your Mum here while you go and park the car, she’s probably about ten minutes away from being jabbed now, I’ll keep an eye out, no, she won’t lose her place, not now she’s got a queue number!”

My second shift was at a different centre where I was marshalling the queue outside and asking people the initial screening questionnaire.

How would you sum up your experience? 

It was organised chaos, but we must have jabbed about 300 to 400 people during each shift.  So from that point of view, it was mission accomplished.    The same thing will happen tomorrow, and the next day.  More vaccination centres will open, and numbers being vaccinated will keep going up.  We will get there.

How can I volunteer to help?

I registered on my local Council’s website and receive emails when new shifts are available. Since I work full time in the civil service, I fit volunteering shifts in when I can.”

If volunteering at a Covid vaccination centre isn’t right for you there are lots of other ways to make a difference. Many local councils, voluntary organisations and community support groups also have vacancies for telephone befriending, delivering food parcels or library books, or other roles in the local community.  Lots of Soroptimist East London women are helping in different ways. We’re proud of them.


Bengali woman working
woman in covid mask

Interested to learn more about Soroptimist East London?

Soroptimist East London is a women’s organisation committed to empowering women for positive change and sustainable development in East London and around the world. We do it through volunteering, mentoring and advocacy and work in partnership with other organisations and Soroptimist clubs near and far. Members come from a wide range of professional backgrounds and live, work or have personal connections to East London. We’re part of Soroptimist International, a worldwide women’s volunteer organisation with clubs in 121 countries around the world and consultative status at the United Nations.

You can find out more about what we do and how we do it by reading our blog “What Does Soroptimist East London Do?”  And, check out the rest of our website too!

If you’d like to find out more or join, please get in touch by clicking HERE!  We’re a vibrant and friendly group and new members are welcome.  If you’d like to support our work please nominate us to receive an Easyfundraising donation, whenever you shop online. There’s absolutely no cost to you and it helps us to help others.  You can nominate us HERE!.

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