Open letter to volunteers
1 June 2021
None of us could have predicted, even a year ago, that we would now be approaching Volunteers’ Week under COVID-19 restrictions for a second year in a row. This reality brings with it mixed emotions for us all. We know that for many of you the past year has been tinged with sadness, isolation and frustration and we are thinking of all of you who have lost loved ones. Due to circumstances beyond all our control you’ve been unable to step in and provide hands-on help to the hospitals, staff and patients that you so want to support and we recognise how hard that’s been for you.
We can’t let this Volunteers’ Week go by without acknowledging that although we aren’t yet able to have large number of volunteers back in the hospitals, we know we still have an army of supporters ready and willing to come back to us, and for this we are eternally grateful and want to thank you. The staff at the Royal Free Charity, the staff at our hospitals and the patients are very much looking forward to seeing you again as soon as circumstances allow.
While it has not been possible to continue with much of our previous work, it has been a time of rapid change and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust has needed our support in new ways. Our volunteers have been instrumental in getting a number of new initiatives up and running, things that simply would not have been possible without your help. Many of you have given your time to help with the vaccination effort, volunteering in vaccination clinics both in our hospitals and in the community. Others have been checking in on vulnerable, lonely patients, building supportive relationships with them by making regular phone calls to them once discharged from hospital. Digital Skills volunteers have been ensuring that patients are able to access online appointments, talking them through the technology so that they are confident with this new approach. And of course, we are now starting to see the return of some volunteers to our hospital sites. Virtual Visitors have been ensuring that patients can connect with their loved ones at home, an often emotional role that has required much resilience from those involved. Our indispensable Dementia Companions have been back providing much needed company and distraction for those on the wards who need it most and our therapy dogs and their wonderful owners have returned to give staff a much needed boost. With footfall increasing we have also seen the return of Meet & Greet volunteers, who offer a warm welcome and invaluable knowledge of the hospitals.
It is heart-warming to realise that even with the challenges of the global pandemic there has been so much volunteer activity that it is not possible to mention it all here individually, but we want you to know that each and every one of you, no matter what your role, are so important to the Royal Free Charity. We thank you for your patience and adaptability and appreciate the time, effort and support you have given us. We are looking forward continuing to work with you throughout the year ahead.