As the UK faces the challenges of coronavirus, lockdowns and social distancing here’s an inspiring story of how helping out has led to a lasting friendship.
Claire Widd’s day job is working as a Senior Internal Communications Manager for Cadent.
With the ongoing coronavirus situation, 2020 has been a year unlike any other both inside and outside work, for Claire who is based at Cadent’s Coventry office
Earlier this year at the height of lockdown, Cadent announced it would give employees two days of paid leave a month to help out with the national coronavirus effort.
Claire was keen to get involved and she heard about Mutual Aid from a friend who was volunteering through them.
Mutual Aid lists the various support groups that have been set up to help during the coronavirus situation and enables would be volunteers to get in touch and find out how they can help.
Claire, who lives in Hinckley, found her local group and signed up.
She explained: "Volunteering is something I have always wanted to do but I didn't necessarily have the time or ability to do it meaningfully. Lockdown and the volunteering scheme presented me with a unique opportunity, so I took it."
She was connected with Diana and David, an elderly couple also living in Hinckley, who found out about Mutual Aid from a friend of theirs and required help with their weekly shop.
To begin with, Claire shared the task with other Mutual Aid volunteers. However, as the rate of infection began to fall over the summer months, the demand on Mutual Aid's services also diminished as people who were previously shielding started to emerge from their homes.
“As the number of requests received by the group decreased, the demand on my time as a volunteer also reduced but like others, Diana and David still felt uncomfortable in settings where large crowds of people were present,” said Claire.
Claire offered to continue helping Diana and David directly and has continued to do their shopping on a weekly basis.
Claire quickly became very familiar with their shopping list and all the foods and brands they like hence a shopping trip now takes a fraction of the time.
She reflected: “As I’ve got to know Diana and David I’ve also got to know their preferences and I can actually do their shopping much faster than my own!”
They have a lot in common and talk about things on many levels - they each love cats and talk about Claire's kittens.
Diana said, "Claire has become a very good friend - like a daughter. She is so helpful - I can’t praise her enough. We have a lot in common. Every week we catch up about Claire's kittens and she shares photos with me."
Diana continued by saying, "We have met someone we really like, and it's really nice. We hope the friendship continues after COVID."
Claire agreed, saying, "When we are told we can go back to what we used to do, the friendship will remain. Having a friendship come out of this is really important to me.
“Volunteering has been hugely beneficial for my own wellbeing as it gave me something to focus on outside of work, particularly at the height of lockdown. It was really rewarding to give something back.”
Over the weeks and months that have followed a friendship has blossomed between them and after every trip, they enjoy a 15-20 minute socially distanced doorstep chat and catch-ups over the phone.
Volunteering has a really personal impact for Claire too, she explained: “Just before lockdown my gran passed away and as she lived some distance away, she would have relied on other family members and volunteers during lockdown. I would want to know someone was there to support her so supporting Diana and David wasn’t ever in doubt for me.”
Similarly, Diana and David's family don't live locally, so for Claire volunteering feels like the right thing to do.
Diana said, "It means everything to us. We haven’t had to go out to do our shopping, because we would find it difficult as we are and under the present circumstances. Claire has given us a lot of a support and we can't thank her enough."
Claire will continue to go shopping for Diana and David for as long they require her support, but their friendship will last far longer, to the benefit of them all.