Volunteer Ireland
Connecting Communities Through Volunteering

COVID-19 Group Awardees 2020

We are so proud to announce this years winners in the COVID-19 Group Category. This year we are celebrating three outstanding volunteer groups in each category.

Read each of their inspiring stories below.

Achill Community Response Centre, Mayo

The Achill Community Group was setup to support the vulnerable, elderly and self-isolating during the COVID crises. They organise home deliveries by partnering with Local Link; they work with SVP; they coordinate school lunch home delivery; and with St John Ambulance they co-ordinate medical supplies to and from hospitals.

As Achill has an ageing population the island was very severely impacted by the pandemic. A lot of the elderly and vulnerable people were unable to carry out their normal day to day activities. Also the vast spread of the population of Achill was another challenge as the area to be covered is over 55 square miles made up of many small villages.

There was number of sub groups formed to look after each area. A dedicated line was set up via Achill Tourism who would then contact a volunteer from the area to complete the errand/request. At the time of submitting the nomination, the group had dealt with 1,300 requests through the centre and out to our volunteer base of over 200 people.

Comfort4Covid, Dublin

The Comfort4Covid team was set up to help hospital patients and nursing home residents impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown. Being isolated and lonely takes a terrible toll on people so the aim was to use technology to connect these patients and residents with their families. Having raised €115,000 in cash and over €100,000 in resources, the team sourced, configured and delivered 1,067 tablets to 470 hospitals and nursing homes, helping over 20,000 vulnerable people.

The tablets are being used for many purposes. Sadly, they have been used to allow families to say goodbye to loved ones or comfort those who have been very sick. They have also been used to bring happiness, allowing families to celebrate an 80th birthday with a grandparent, or nursing home residents to watch their favourite old movie, or connect to their local mass.

Most of the hospitals and nursing homes that received tablets have expressed how positive an impact the tablets have had on their residents and patients. Not only that, but they have also spoken of the positive impact on their staff.

Without tablets, often staff would use their mobile phones to connect residents with their families, meaning that for some people it could be a couple of weeks between calls to their families and for the staff member it could mean a huge phone bill. In some cases, this hasn’t even been possible and the staff have had the added emotional stress of trying to provide a greater level of interaction to alleviate the loneliness, despite the added challenges that COVID-19 already presented to their workload.

None of this positive impact on patients, residents and staff would have been possible without the dedication that the Comfort4Covid team has shown.

South Dublin County Volunteer Corps – COVID-19 Test Centre Volunteers, Dublin

The volunteers are part of the South Dublin County Volunteer Corps (managed by the Volunteer Centre) but are volunteering for and with the HSE in a busy COVID-19 testing site.

In summary, volunteers serve as an effective first point of contact with those arriving for tests – welcoming them and reassuring them, being a friendly face, checking their referral status from the HSE, locating their paperwork, answering any questions and offering reassurance before signposting and escorting them for testing.

Volunteers responded immediately to the call for help at the Test Centre and a large initial team of 30 was rapidly on site, recruited mainly via the national volunteering database I-VOL. From the very uncertain early days of the pandemic, the volunteers stepped forward in an entirely new role specifically designed to respond to the health crisis.

Their willingness to learn and adapt to PPE and other COVID-19 risk management procedures has been outstanding and has led to the development of a highly competent, efficient volunteer team who deliver an essential frontline service at the Test Centre. As a group, they give their time 7 days a week, outdoors in all weathers to make a difference in their community.