The Queen and The Duchess of Cornwall thank pandemic volunteers

Friday, 19 March 2021
On 16 March the Royal Voluntary Service’s Patron, Her Majesty The Queen and the charity’s President, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, joined a video call to thank four volunteers for their invaluable support throughout the pandemic.

Her Majesty and Her Royal Highness spoke to and thanked two Royal Voluntary Service volunteers and two NHS Volunteer Responders who have been supporting members of their community who are vulnerable to COVID-19. You can watch the video call on The Royal Family's YouTube channel here

The four volunteers on the call were Sue Cadwallader, 54 from Northumberland; Tracy Clarke, 54 from Gateshead; Simon Holmes, 37 from Stockton-on-Tees and Anderson Akponeware, 42 from Middlesbrough.

Praising the work of the millions who have stepped forward across the country, The Queen said:

"I think it’s wonderful work. Thank you to everybody - and all the others too who have been volunteering. It has been a great help."

Her Majesty The Queen
The Duchess of Cornwall said:

"Thank you all very much for all you’ve done throughout the year, throughout the pandemic. We couldn’t have done it without you."

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall


The call comes three weeks after The Duchess of Cornwall, in her role as President of Royal Voluntary Service, visited a vaccination site in Wembley where she joined and thanked NHS Volunteer Responder Stewards for their service. Members of the Royal family including The Duchess of Cambridge, The Countess of Wessex and The Duchess of Gloucester have also supported the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme by making ‘Check in and Chat’ calls.

Royal Voluntary Service Chief Executive, Catherine Johnstone CBE was also on the call and introduced the volunteers to Her Majesty and Her Royal Highness. Throughout the pandemic, Royal Voluntary Service volunteers have provided essential support to those in need, with the charity tailoring its existing services to ensure that no client goes without help. These include companionship calls, grocery and prescription deliveries, free food packs to vulnerable people and to NHS teams, socially distanced visits, home library deliveries and medical and community transport journeys.

Tracy Clarke, 54 is from Gateshead and has been volunteering with Royal Voluntary Service for the past two years. Tracy volunteers for the Gateshead Home Library Service, delivering books on a monthly basis to those who are elderly, house-bound or disabled. Tracey joined the call and was delighted to virtually meet The Queen and The Duchess of Cornwall.

Her Majesty recognised the comfort that people take in reading and praised the service for being “very helpful” as books are “very important to people.”

"Meeting Her Majesty and Her Royal Highness was a true honour. They were both very interested in what I had been doing and it was obvious that they have so much respect and admiration for volunteers."

Tracy Clarke, Royal Voluntary Service volunteer
The NHS Volunteer Responders scheme is delivered for the NHS by Royal Voluntary Service and GoodSAM and volunteers have so far completed 1.6m tasks for those in need. Volunteer tasks include collecting shopping and prescriptions for those who are isolating at home, providing transport to and from vital medical appointments and phoning those isolating for supportive check in and chat calls. The scheme has also recently been extended to support the vaccination rollout.

Anderson Akponeware, 42 is a Check in and Chat NHS Volunteer Responder from Middlesbrough and spends his weekends and evenings phoning those in need of conversation.

"When the call was made by the NHS and the RVS to support the vulnerable and those who were shielding, I didn’t think twice before signing up - so for close to a year now I’ve been a Check in and Chat volunteer."

"People have been living in their own small bubbles, and I wouldn’t have known how isolated those small bubbles could be until I took on this role."

"Volunteering is the most important gift we can give and it is something I will continue to do for the rest of my life."

"When I signed up to become a volunteer I never expected to speak to the Royal Family. This is something I will remember and treasure forever."

Anderson Akponeware, NHS Volunteer Responder
Catherine Johnstone CBE, Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service said “It is a real honour for our volunteers to speak to and be thanked by Her Majesty The Queen and Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall. We are incredibly grateful to them both for taking the time to have this call. It was an incredibly special event. Volunteers across the country have done a phenomenal job in keeping our most vulnerable safe, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one who has stepped forward.”

The Queen became Patron of the Royal Voluntary Service in 1952, when it was known as the WVS (Women’s Voluntary Service). Her Majesty followed in the footsteps of her grandmother, Queen Mary, who was the organisation’s first Patron when it was established in 1938. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother then became President of the organisation in December that same year.

As Princess Elizabeth, The Queen visited the WVS Headquarters on several occasions during and after the Second World War. In 1966, in recognition of the organisation’s work in support of the nation, Her Majesty granted the honour of adding ‘Royal’ to the organisation’s title and in 2014, it became known as the Royal Voluntary Service.

The Duchess of Cornwall has been President of the Royal Voluntary Service since 2012 and regularly visits branches of the Royal Voluntary Service and meets volunteers with the service across the UK. Her Royal Highness most recently visited volunteers supporting the country’s vaccination rollout at the Wembley Vaccination Centre in February. Around 70,000 Royal Voluntary Service Royal Voluntary Service Steward Volunteers are on hand at vaccination centres across the country to reduce anxiety, help with social distancing and keep people safe and comfortable.

For further information

Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest volunteering organisations in Great Britain, providing vital, responsive services which support public health, social care and wellbeing. Its staff and thousands of volunteers support people in need, with the aim of building resilience in local communities.

Originally set up as the Women’s Voluntary Service (subsequently the WRVS) in 1938, the charity began its life helping civilians during the Second World War. To mark our 75th anniversary in 2013, we became Royal Voluntary Service and welcome volunteers of all genders and backgrounds from age 14+.

The charity has supported the NHS since its inception. Today’s Royal Voluntary Service NHS volunteers provide patient companionship and transport, on-ward exercise sessions, and settlement support for vulnerable patients following a stay in hospital.

In local communities, Royal Voluntary Service (volunteers) run(s) physical activity classes, dining clubs and social groups which bring people together, promoting better health, social interaction and connection.

In March 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, NHS England commissioned Royal Voluntary Service to deliver the NHS Volunteer Responders programme to support the NHS and provide practical help to the 2.5 million most at-risk people who were shielding at home. This was the biggest volunteer mobilisation programme in peacetime and represents a revolution in volunteering, using technology to register, alert and deploy volunteers quickly, wherever needed. The programme created a safety net of on-call support in every community across England and to date, NHS Volunteer Responders have responded to 1.6 million requests for help.

The charity is also one of the UK’s largest hospital retailers with 230 volunteer-run shops, cafés and trolley services providing refreshments and company to patients, hospital staff and visitors.

Royal Voluntary Service offers a dynamic, rewarding, flexible volunteering experience, with volunteers supporting services designed to meet specific local community needs and the NHS.

To become a local volunteer search for volunteering opportunities in your area. Or help make a difference by making a secure online donation. If you are a member of the press and have a media enquiry please contact the Media Team. For all other enquiries, contact us.


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