If you're feeling vulnerable or lonely, we're here to help – and now we're just a phone call away
The coronavirus outbreak has stopped long-term volunteer Chris doing her job as usual – so instead, she's taking calls on our new coronavirus support line
As a former nurse and British Red Cross volunteer of 35 years, Chris is used to stepping in to help whenever needed.
As a key part of our psychosocial support team, she was there providing emotional support and advice to those affected by the London bombings in 2005, and flew out to Tunisia following the terror attack in 2015.
But now, in these strange times of social distancing, she has found another way to help on the front lines of the coronavirus emergency by taking calls on our new coronavirus support line.
Keeping together while we're apart
Designed to provide practical and emotional support to people who are lonely or worried, or who are finding it hard to access food or medication due to the outbreak, the number is open daily from 10am to 6pm. Staff and volunteers give support and advice to callers, and connect them with local services.
“A lot of the calls are from people who need urgent shopping,” said Chris. “They’ve either managed on their store cupboard for a while, and a neighbour has been getting them some milk and bread in the interim, but they haven’t had a proper shop for quite a while.
“We’ve been getting more and more calls recently about urgent medicines because people are running out or need specialist cancer drugs picking up and delivering to them.”
Chris now does six shifts a week as a supervisor and call handler for the support line. “[When I heard about the support line] I felt it would help me to volunteer because I felt that I was doing something of value and that I was able to contribute in some way,” said Chris. “The fact that I am able to be part of this response from home is uplifting and enabling me to play my part.”
Chris says the support line has proven to be even more of a lifeline for some. “Some people are ringing just because they’re lonely and want to chat,” said Chris. “I had a lovely chat with an older lady about her garden and the fact she didn’t have any seeds. So I made a suggestion about where she could get some seeds by post and she went away quite cheery to think that she could get some plants and do a little bit in her garden.”
Letting people know that help is at hand
The support line aims to direct people to their local services or community hubs, while letting them know what their options are. For those in urgent need of help, staff and volunteers can refer them to Red Cross emergency response teams in their area.
“[These are] people who do not have any way, no local community, no family, nobody to go and get shopping or medicine,” said Chris. “I had one operator who had somebody on the phone and they’d been trying for two weeks to get their cancer drugs and they now only had two days left of them, so I put that through as urgent. You can flag the really important ones and make sure that they get dealt with as priority cases.”
YOU CAN FLAG THE REALLY IMPORTANT [CALLS] AND MAKE SURE THEY GET DEALT WITH AS PRIORITY CASES.Chris, support line worker
Chris first began volunteering with the British Red Cross in 1985 as a first aid trainer. Seeing Red Cross volunteers’ impact first-hand, both the UK and abroad, has kept her loyal to the organisation.
“It’s about making a difference to real people. I used to go and visit care schemes and various volunteering schemes and seeing how they interact with somebody who wouldn’t get that support in any other way is brilliant – it would really refocus me on why we’re here to make a difference,” said Chris.
And while she is looking forward to one day being able to help people face-to-face once again, for now she is happy swapping the frontline for the phone line. “I hope our efforts are getting to the right people and helping them to bear this difficult time a little better,” said Chris. “I trust the emergency support team and I am so proud to be a part of it.”
UK Coronavirus Response Appeal
The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest health emergency of our time. With your help, we’ll continue to provide vital support to those worst affected by the outbreak, wherever the need is greatest.DONATE