When, in early January, my wife saw on social media that Channel Rotary had been asked to identify volunteers to marshal at the first Covid Vaccination Centre in our area, I knew my chance had come to finally wear the high viz jacket that had been stowed in my car boot since the French authorities made me put it there too many years ago to remember! Upon reflection, and to inject a bit more interest into this volunteering story, I should probably add that the opportunity of doing my part to help our country to defeat the Covid 19 pandemic also couldn’t be missed! Since then I’ve been undertaking shifts as a marshal at all different times, in all weathers, but mostly when it’s been cold so far, to book people in, show them where to drive and park, and to keep an eye on them for 15 minutes after they’d received their vaccination injections. I’ve found this an incredibly rewarding experience for several reasons. First, simply helping the nation in a small way to deal with the Covid crisis feels like the right thing to do. Secondly, to witness first-hand the relief on the faces of so many, particularly those of later years, once they receive their vaccine is a sight to behold – you can literally see a weight lifted from their shoulders with the realisation that they might once again be able to re-start their lives, without worrying in quite the same way as they have for so long. Thirdly, the camaraderie demonstrated by participating volunteers has been universal in my view, and represents such a positive response and impressive sense of community and commitment to the common good, which is all the more impactful when you know volunteers have been asked to limit their shift requests to ensure everyone who wants to make a contribution is able to do so. I know from speaking with other volunteers that I am far from alone in these views, and I’m sure that the momentum that has now been built will continue until the last day a Covid vaccine is needed. I’ve also been impressed by the hard work and energy of all the clinicians and nurses in vaccinating hundreds of people each day, contributing significantly to one in thee adults in the Folkestone and Hythe having now received their first vaccine injection; and also by how well organised everything has been to ensure appointment times are met as far as possible and no vaccine is wasted. All those involved have every reason to be very proud of the efforts they’ve made and continue to make. I’ve been so inspired that I signed up to be a volunteer vaccinator with St John Ambulance and have now completed their excellent training programme, meaning I’m very much looking forward to undertaking some shifts as a vaccinator at [the old] Debenhams sometime soon.
I’m very much hoping that if something good can come out of the Covid crisis it will be a revisiting of what we should all value most in life, and that a recalibration of society’s values more widely will lead to a greater acknowledgement of the many good things that can be achieved when people work together to benefit others, with just taking part and making a real difference being seen as sufficient reward in itself when appropriate. Although not every situation will require the wearing of high viz, the future will undoubtedly be a brighter one if this happens and I would encourage everyone to play their part by doing whatever they can.
Dominic van der Wal