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Retired couple from Chieveley are Newbury Vaccination Centre's Volunteers of the Week

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Newbury Vaccination Centre's Volunteers of the Week are retired dentist Giles Derry and his wife Lesley.

Mr and Mrs Derry both retired on the same day in 2020 with plans to go travelling and enjoy their new-found freedom.

However, the coronavirus pandemic put paid to that and they found themselves at their home in Chieveley with a lot of extra time on their hands.

Volunteers of the week Lesley and Giles Derry
Volunteers of the week Lesley and Giles Derry

Mr Derry said: "We both thought volunteering would be a worthwhile thing to do and actually a bit of fun, given that we had recently retired and all of a sudden found we were restricted in what we could do."

The volunteer leads nominated Mr and Mrs Derry because they have been volunteering since the start and have undertaken almost every role in the centre between them, including, the leads said "significant amounts of chair cleaning".

The couple are described as "reliable, team players, who never complain, no matter how boring it gets when it is quieter, and do a cracking job, always with a smile and a sense of humour".

Mr and Mrs Derry can now generally be found on the front desk checking in patients and Mrs Derry said: "It's just lovely chatting to people. All the patients are so appreciative and for some of the older people – particularly when the first jabs were being administered – it was very emotional. Some of them were quite tearful and scared.

"It was our job to provide reassurance – you had to be a person again, supportive and guiding others, and that was a tremendous feeling."

The couple said they had no idea what to expect when they signed up to volunteer.

"It has been really eye-opening," Mr Derry added. "People coming in are from all walks of life, but they are all really appreciative.

"The volunteer team are great too. The system is very efficient and has now become very slick."

The couple estimate they have done about 30 shifts at the centre and Mrs Derry, who worked at the British Dental Association before retiring, said she will miss it when it finishes.

"It surprised me how enjoyable the whole experience has been," she said. "I hadn't really imagined that it would be such a big operation with so many volunteers and we have formed friendships here. But everyone has been so welcoming and the patients absolutely lovely."

The couple are both looking forward to going on their long-awaited travels when the world opens up again and things return to normal.

Mrs Derry said: "I look forward to meeting up with people and rekindling old friendships and really just going out in an uninhibited way. And we can't wait to go on holiday."

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