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Coronavirus Thatcham: Volunteers step forward to 'help and make a difference'

We speak to a handful of more than 300 people helping their community

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886633

Coronavirus Thatcham: Volunteers step forward to 'help and make a difference'

SINCE the start of lockdown people from across Thatcham have stepped forward to help people in their community. 

Around 300 people have signed up with Thatcham Town Council’s volunteer scheme, delivering prescriptions, food parcels, grocery shopping, advice leaflets, and being a voice to isolated people.

The Newbury Weekly News spoke to a handful of volunteers who have helped deliver more than 2,500 prescriptions during lockdown across Thatcham, Brimpton, Bucklebury, Cold Ash, Ashmore Green, Crookham and Hermitage.

Shazia Zamani, 44, said: “I remember on the day that the lockdown was announced, it was that feeling of I’m OK because I’m not at risk, but what about the people who are who can’t go anywhere?

“There was just a need within me to do something to help and make a difference.”

A computer science teacher at Kennet School, Ms Zamani decided that delivering prescriptions was something she could do to make a difference while socially distancing. 

Her husband Joshua Vemuri has also been delivering, but has had to stop as he is returning to work. 

She said there had been some teething problems at the start, but the town council now had a well-organised system in place.

“I did two days a week and would have about 10 deliveries a day,” she said.

“Now there are more volunteers I have not been called for three weeks.

“More people are getting involved, so I’m called less often. It’s never constant.

“After Easter there was a sudden influx of people who wanted to get involved.”

She said town council staff have “been amazing in organising everything” and did everything they could to ensure items were delivered. 

Dave Garrad, 49, has been delivering prescriptions and leaflets since the appeal went out.

He said: “Being furloughed from my job in the motor trade I had some spare time during the day that I didn’t normally have.

“I’ve also been looking after close family and an elderly neighbour and wanted to support people.

“I realised how rewarding it was.

“People are very appreciative, sometimes that’s the only person they see all day.” 

With him and other volunteers returning to work, Mr Garrad said: “It’s raising awareness of the issue to recruit more people.”

He said the town council had “a good team of people behind it” who were very committed and well organised.

“Nothing is too much trouble for them.” 

Karen Eke, 60, said she was retired and wanted to give back, having volunteered for other groups beforehand. 

She said: “It’s not going to take up a lot of time and you also see other people and how they are and make sure they are OK.

“It’s given me a good sense of community by doing it as well.

“People have been very grateful and thankful so you know that you are helping people out.”

Mrs Eke said she had been caring for carers as she had visited a lady working in care five days a week who would have had to spend time queuing for a prescription.

Eric Guy, 67, is retired and put his name forward for the national call for volunteers.

But he said it “never really came to anything to be honest, but then I saw the local one from the town council and thought that suits me better because I live so close”.  

He continued: “I’ve got the time and I enjoy doing it.

“I’ve been to people who weren’t expecting their prescription at all who have been very grateful.

“It’s been heartwarming I have to say. 

“It’s been fairly easy and the staff at the town council have been brilliant.

“I’m just going to keep doing it until they feel that they don’t need me.”

Mr Guy said he had started off cycling with prescription deliveries, but as the area and demand increased he had to switch methods.

To potential recruits, he said: “If you have got the time you should do something.

“I feel it’s important to have something like that.

“It makes me grateful when I see other people are struggling.

“Having got the volunteers and people enjoying it, they will say ‘right, just keep doing this’. Let’s hope they do.” 

If you feel like volunteering, email enquiries@thatchamtowncouncil.gov.uk  

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