Thetford applauds an NHS volunteer driver

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Thetford applauds an NHS volunteer driver

After being furloughed, Andy Richardson from St Mary’s Thetford began coordinating support for vulnerable people in the parish. Here he describes how it led to more than he expected.

The Chair of the Parish Pastoral Council, Dom Hill, assembled a group of volunteers and asked if I would coordinate it. Support is offered mainly to elderly parishioners using telephone buddies who maintain regular contact and are a listening ear.

One of the volunteers, Dr Jess Beckett, works as a local GP. I asked Jess’ advice on the appropriateness of a 63-year-old ex-serviceman volunteering to assist the NHS. An instant response led to me being recruited me as a volunteer medication delivery driver to meet a desperate need at Jess’ local surgery. After producing my latest DBS certificate, I was asked to start immediately.

I am a part-time local bus and coach driver and also held a taxi licence for the local area for 12 years, so this was definitely a voluntary job that I knew I could do. I now cover an afternoon duty from Monday to Friday, and the thanks and gratitude I have received so far from the people whose prescription medication I have delivered to is truly humbling.

I have even been clapped on many occasions, and the reward is greater than the simple effort I put in. That also applies to our local Foodbank where I have been a volunteer since it started eight years ago.

On my deliveries I maintain social distancing by placing items on doorsteps and stepping away after knocking or ringing. I wear gloves and mask, and also a full-face visor when delivering to care homes.

One spin-off has been generous cash donations from parishioners as I deliver their medication. One gentleman got his wallet and emptied £145 into an envelope for Thetford Foodbank. In a recent follow-up the same person enquired about Gift Aid and delivered a cheque for £400 to the foodbank collection point. Such generosity is truly overwhelming and an astonishing demonstration of Christian charity.

In the parish a list of DBS-cleared volunteers is being maintained, who are ready to offer assistance in worst-case scenario conditions if regular domestic care suddenly became unavailable for individuals. This does not look to replace services provided by statutory bodies, but it seeks to reassure vulnerable adults that help is only a phone call away should outside help not be otherwise forthcoming.

Volunteers always operate in pairs and where possible are gender specific. Personal protection protocols are maintained, and efforts made to contact the care provider for an update.

Cel Luterbacher and Dr Jess Beckett continue to give confirmation classes using the modern wizardry of Zoom. Mark Luterbacher is providing an excellent online parish newsletter, including large formatted pages for delivery to visually impaired parishioners, and copies have been distributed to those self-isolating who are without internet access.

To end on a light-hearted story, I recently administered first aid to a young rabbit I came across during one of my daily walks along part of the Peddars Way. The casualty was lying next to a low voltage electrical fence and after brief examination (gloved up of course) it commenced involuntary breakdancing. When this subsided, I placed him in my hat and moved him to a safer patch of shady grass. On my return from my walk the rabbit had gone, hopefully fully recovered from a shocking experience.

Stay safe, God bless.

Top Photo by cylonka Bsg from FreeImages, with Andy Richardson pictured at centre