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Thatcham Councillor and a jewellery designer are Newbury Vaccination Centre's Volunteers of the Week

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Caren Cotton and Lourdes Cottam have both been given the Volunteer of the Week accolade by Newbury Vaccination Centre.

The leads said that they have really struggled with choosing just one person – or couple – as volunteer of the week, as "you have all been so amazing".

It came down to two, who happen to have very similar sounding surnames, and so the leads decided they would just have to give it to both of them. Explaining their decision, the volunteer leads said: "Nothing is too much trouble for either of them, they never complain and Lourdes has answered the call for help at very short notice on more than one occasion."

Caren Cotton
Caren Cotton

Mrs Cotton, who lives in Peasemore, said she was delighted and explained why she signed up to be a volunteer: "I wanted to get out there and start being helpful and, let's be honest, meet new people after spending so long in lockdown.

"We are also making history. What is being achieved, across the country and across the globe, will be talked about for years to come."

Mrs Cotton is originally from Northern Ireland and said that the worst thing has been not being able to visit her family for two years. She said: "All being well I hope to go home in June, but volunteering at the vaccination centre has shown me how lucky I am. There are so many vulnerable, sick and lonely people, but they have all been so grateful for what we do, it gives you a real buzz to see what a difference we make to people's lives."

Mrs Cotton's husband is a mining engineer and for many years they lived abroad. "I am lucky," she added. "We spent years in Australia, where own eldest daughter Bria was born, the United States, where second daughter Annabel was born, and Singapore. So I have travelled a lot and seen the world.

"When you meet these people at the racecourse with so many different experiences it is quite humbling. We treat everyone with respect and dignity and positivity and I come away from each shift feeling I've done a cool thing. There's a real sense of achievement."

During the enforced lockdown Mrs Cotton has concentrated on creating jewellery for her online business and said that she is also looking forward to craft fairs starting up again.

She added: "I'm a people person and I love talking to and meeting with so many different people, so I really hope I can set up stall again soon at all the lovely local craft fairs."

Lourdes Cottam
Lourdes Cottam

Mrs Cottam is a Thatcham town councillor and, although originally from Spain, has lived in the area for the best part of 40 years.

She said: "I hadn't thought about volunteering until a friend suggested it. But when I went to the training session I liked the idea of getting involved.

"I have done everything from wiping down chairs, to welcoming people and looking after the other volunteers."

Mrs Cottam said that the whole experience had been a real eye-opener. "It's been a very positive thing and I've met some amazing people, always cheerful, grateful and smiling," she said.

She added she has missed her grandchildren the most during lockdown and is looking forward to seeing more of them as restrictions ease.

"I don't know when I'll get to see other relatives in Spain, but I look forward to that as well," she added.

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