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    Harper staff volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic

    Posted 1 May 2020

    Arthur Broadhurst

    Harper Adams staff, alongside their day-to-day duties or other responsibilities, have been volunteering their time and support to provide services to the most vulnerable affected by COVID-19.

    Members of the University community are serving their local communities, offering their time to help those who cannot go about their day to day lives.

    University Engineer Arthur Broadhurst is playing a crucial role with Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire Blood Bikes (SSCBB). He said: “I’m one of the hundreds of volunteer Blood Bike Riders in the UK. We give up our free time to assist the NHS by delivering urgent essentials.

    "Usually we are engaged 24/7 transporting urgent blood, tissue samples, breast milk, blood products and more between hospitals and pathology laboratories. However, in light of the current situation, we are also now transporting many COVID-19 samples and urgently required items of PPE around the UK.

    “I’ve been a volunteer rider with SSCBB since 2015 and, because I usually work full-time, I generally ride at night for them. A typical shift is 7pm to 7am where I usually cover the Shropshire and Staffordshire area, and occasionally down to the QE2 Hospital and Blood Bank in Birmingham.

    “We also carry out relays with other blood bike groups across the UK, to get urgent material to specialist pathology labs and hospitals that may be hundreds of miles away. The last one of those I did came from Stranraer in Scotland, and was relayed by four riders, with me carrying the item for the last leg from Keele Services on the M6 down to a specialist laboratory south of Coventry.”

    Alongside his work for SSCBB, Arthur also volunteers for Visor Bikes, who similarly assist the NHS through the delivery of PPE for those on the front lines.

    Dr Rounaq Nayak, Lecturer in Food Policy, on the other hand does not have to leave the house to play his part. He said: “I am registered as one of the many official volunteers for the NHS to support the Shrewsbury area. Working through the GoodSam app, I am notified if someone needs help.”

    While many users of the GoodSam app deliver food and medicines to vulnerable people, Dr Nayak’s role is slightly different. He explained: “I call people who need someone to talk to. Just talking to someone helps with the mental health side of things; especially for the at-risk population who have to stay home for at least 12 weeks, if not more. Although we can choose when we are available, I choose to be available 24x7 as you never know when someone just needs a good talk!”

    Delivery of essentials is also vital in supporting vulnerable members of the community. Kimberley Chadwick, Outreach Manager, is also a volunteer for the NHS. She said: “I’m currently an NHS transport responder, aiming to support with deliveries such as pharmacy pick-ups and drop offs.

    “I’m also a volunteer through Telford and Wrekin Council to support local residents with things like shopping and even dog walking where required.”

    Likewise, Melanie Downes, Departmental Administrator, is delivering essentials to households in her area. She commented: “I am volunteering for the Shawbirch, Bratton, Admaston and Wrockwardine COVID-19 Community Help group. We are a group of local residents supporting those who are isolated. Initially, it was just collecting and delivering prescriptions, but this has now increased to daily and weekly shopping, dog walking, parcel collecting and daily phone chats.

    “As I signed up for the Walk 1000 Miles Challenge in 2020, I am combining my volunteering with walking to help get my miles in. I am looking forward to becoming a proclaimer; by walking 500 miles by the end of April!”

    Other volunteers are sourcing food supplies for families in a different way. Tammy Jones, second chef to the catering department, has been working for Food Share Project UK. Based in Woodside, Telford, the volunteers are continuing to run a food bank, implementing time slots and drive-through facilities to help those financially impacted by COVID-19. Since launching the project, more volunteers are working to provide food across communities within the borough to support those who need it most.

    However, there are other ways to support those in isolation other than collecting and delivering essential goods. Adreen Hart-Rule, International Recruitment Communications Officer, has been keeping her Brownie and Guide community morale up while also observing social distancing.

    She shared: “I've started hosting a weekly chat and activity session for my Brownie and Guide groups to help the girls stay connected, have some fun and something to look forward to.

    “In the first week, each unit caught up on 'news' from each other. This week Brownies played bingo and Guides had a quiz.

    “We're going to continue working towards badges and identify more activities that we can do while apart and digitally while still in lockdown.”

    Further volunteers include colleagues making scrubs, face masks, kit bags and scrub caps for NHS staff and carers through a network of community sewing groups.

    Meanwhile core staff are still working on campus, ensuring resident students have access to food and support and that the university’s 3000-plus animals remain well cared for.

    As a community, we hope to not only make a difference between field and fork to feed the nation, but also to support those around us who need help during this difficult time.

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