“Mike and I have been married for 56 years, with four children and four grandchildren. We each had a parent who was an immigrant, so have family connections in other parts of the world. We see in our Church a wonderful example of the variety of God’s family. We grew up with, studied with, lived, worked, and always worship with people from communities across the world.
Mike and I have had various voluntary roles over the years though one of our biggest challenges began on 23 December 2020. We are Patient Participation Group (PPG) committee members. Our GP Practice Manager contacted us to ask for the PPG’s help organising volunteers to assist NHS vaccinators and admin staff, by acting as Marshals at our Covid-19 vaccination centre, Clair Hall in Haywards Heath.
Names of volunteers were pouring in to the six GP practices in our Locality Group. We spent a very unusual Christmas collecting details, making contacts, and drawing up the first couple of weeks’ shifts – with the help of streamed Masses and prayers to clear our minds along the way!
Vaccinations began on 29 December. This first intake was the oldest age group; it was sobering to hear more than one person say that this was their first outing in a year. Thankfully, the atmosphere was far from sober – most people were very pleased and grateful to receive their vaccinations and the exchanges with volunteers were, and still are, cheerful and lively.
From the outset, we volunteers knew that any words we could exchange after we’d given the necessary instructions were valuable. These mini-conversations marked a return to normal human interaction, which we have all missed so much - and they often help to relax an anxious patient.
Overall, the teams of vaccinators, NHS admin staff, and volunteer marshals have worked well together, valuing each other’s roles and input, often while coping with an unthinkable number of patients. This down-to-earth, cooperative approach is one reason the undertaking has been so successful.
I have never taken part in an operation of this magnitude or urgency before, and it has been very rewarding.
After the past year’s troubles and uncertainties, it has been extremely valuable to see just how inventive, cooperative, community-minded and kind most people truly are. Offers of equipment have been made, Scout Groups and schoolchildren have contributed colourful posters, and volunteers have re-furbished the centre’s small courtyard garden, to great effect. Many people have sent thank you cards, many others have given refreshments and home-baked cakes, with some local companies donating hot food.
My many colleagues and I continue to do shifts. Among the many patients that I’ve greeted is our very own Bishop Richard, though to my embarrassment I did not at first recognise him (my sincere apologies) – masks present a challenge! Please pray that everyone involved in this undertaking finds the strength and replenishment that they need."
The Diocese wishes to thank Lesley for sharing her experience with us.