Volunteers have stepped up like never before to support the NHS in Swansea Bay during its hour of greatest need.
The health board was already well supported by people willing to give up their time to help others.
But the pandemic has seen hundreds more come forward to help in a variety of unpaid roles.
Rosie Carruthers – One of our volunteers who have stepped up during the pandemic.
Volunteers have been spending hours in our hospitals, others have been helping out in our mass vaccination centres, making sure that everyone is cared for during a time of uncertainty.
And with this week being National Volunteers week, the health board is taking the opportunity to celebrate their invaluable contributions
Chief Executive Officer Mark Hackett said: “We have seen volunteers come forward in ever-increasing numbers to help.”
“Before Covid, we had around 350 volunteers. But we have had well over a further 150 at the time of most need for our services during the Covid period, for which I am enormously grateful.
“All volunteers are important. The roles they perform are diverse and varied, but essential for us in terms of improving particularly our staff and patient experience.
“So I would like to say thank you very much to everybody, well done and keep up the good work.”
Mark Hackett – Chief Executive Officer for Swansea Bay Health Board.
There are many stories of volunteers who have created positive memories while carrying out important roles.
James Butler, who has been living in Swansea for 10 years said his highlight was the initial weeks of the vaccination programme, supporting nurses and healthcare support workers in vaccinating the most vulnerable members of the community in Gorseinon.
“The atmosphere was so positive at this point as we were welcoming many older residents to the vaccination centre, most of whom hadn’t been out since March 2020,” said James.
“Listening to their stories was humbling and it was clear how big a difference the vaccination was making to these members of the community in particular.”
James Butler – Another volunteer working at the max vaccination centre.
Anyone can become a volunteer and there are many roles that can be explored. This can range from being a delivery driver to helping on information desks.
There are many reasons why people volunteer. Elderly or retired volunteers, for example, have said they do it for the social interaction while giving their days some meaning, or even to provide some structure to their week.
Volunteer Rosie Curruthers, who is retired, said “There was an elderly couple that came to Orangery in Margam for their second vaccinations, they were exempt from wearing a face mask and were both slow walkers.
“After explaining the procedure and making the couple feel comfortable in their own pod, I reassured them that someone would be with them shortly.
“After they had their vaccination, they could see me from a distance and both waved towards me. It was so lovely.”
National Volunteers Week runs from June 1st-7th. Because of the diversity of volunteers, there are themed days throughout:
The aim is not just to highlight and celebrate the existing volunteers, but to also encourage more people to join in.
The health board is always looking for new volunteers for a variety of roles.
Volunteer Services Manager, Katie Taylor, said “Volunteers are an extremely valuable part of our workforce.
“They have provided support not only through the pandemic, where they have played a vital role supporting staff, reassuring patients and visitors, ensuring spaces feel safe and ultimately enhancing patient and visitor experience.
“Before this they spent countless hours each week helping across all of our sites in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot in roles from ward befrienders, to drivers, to tea bar volunteers, to gardeners.
“They bring an unparalleled value to the health board, to the staff, to our patients and their families, and to the wider community.
“And they often help without expecting recognition or reward. This week gives us the chance to highlight the valuable impact they make, and say thank you.
Katie said that, for many, volunteering gave purpose and structure to their lives, a chance to meet new people, build connections, confidence and skills, and develop talents.
This, she said, had never been so pertinent as over the last year.
“Volunteering can have a positive impact on well-being and we hope that for our volunteers they understand and recognise the difference they are making, and have felt the benefits themselves.”
If people are interested they can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02920 703290.