"I love giving back to my local community."
Chitra signed up to volunteer at the start of the pandemic to help support those most vulnerable. Chitra began her volunteering journey by making Check In and Chat calls to support the mental health and wellbeing of others during the challenging lockdowns. Later, to support the monumental COVID vaccination rollout and help keep her community safe, she stepped forward as a Steward Volunteer completing shifts at local vaccination sites.
"The pandemic was a difficult time for everyone. There was lots of fear, uncertainty, and social isolation. My husband is asthmatic, and my son is severely disabled, so both were advised to shield, which meant I had to shield as well. It was a lonely time and I felt isolated and helpless. I knew people were struggling, and I wanted to do something to help, I wanted to Play My Part.
"Like most people, I struggled during the pandemic. I am an extrovert and a people person, so maintaining social connections while shielding was particularly difficult.
"Volunteering became a way for me to contribute to the community and support isolated people while still shielding and protecting my family. Each week I would telephone people who were often lonely, many of which were older people shielding alone, and offer support and companionship."
Chitra’s volunteering not only supported others but also helped to maintain her own wellbeing, making a positive impact during a challenging time. She emphasised, "I love giving back to my local community. Volunteering is a great way to make a difference not only to those you support but also in your own life."
Three years on, Chitra continues to dedicate time to providing Check In and Chat calls to individuals facing loneliness and isolation.
"Volunteering and providing telephone companionship supports my wellbeing. Speaking to people each week makes me feel socially connected and is extremely rewarding."
Royal Voluntary Service and NHS and Care Volunteer Responders offers flexible volunteering, allowing volunteers to choose when and where they volunteer in a role that fits their life and lifestyle.
"People are often surprised to learn that I volunteer on top of work and raising a child with disabilities. But I believe volunteering is for everyone. There are so many flexible volunteering options to suit any schedule or ability level. I’ve been able to volunteer on weekends and after work.
"Having a disabled child has actually helped me as a volunteer. My son is nonspeaking and so we use sign language to communicate. This has helped me communicate and connect with people as a volunteer. During Stewarding shifts at my local vaccination sites, I have been able to use sign language to offer support and guidance to people who are hearing impaired or disabled.
"I’d encourage anyone to give volunteering a go."
Chitra has also recently signed up as an Emergency Response volunteer, which means in the unfortunate event of a crisis she’s ready to step in and support when and where it is needed most.