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04/06/20 00:01

Thanks for pandemic volunteers

Celebration of community helpers.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has recorded a video message thanking the tens of thousands of volunteers who have helped Scotland’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19).

The clip – filmed as part of this year’s Volunteers Week – celebrates those who continued to carry out voluntary work in the initial stages of the pandemic and more than 60,000 people who signed up to the Scotland Cares campaign.

The volunteers include grandfather Neil Aitkenhead, 62, a delivery driver with Start Up Stirling, which helps people who need basic essentials.

He said:

“My experience has been so enriching. People from all backgrounds volunteer; some who have been having a hard time in their personal life, others who have been laid off and many people like me who are retired and just love the companionship.

“The best part about being a delivery driver is that you’re encountering the people who really need your help and the people receiving the food deliveries are always delighted to see you. It is really eye opening to see the variety of people who rely on foodbanks. There are people from all parts of society who need our help.

“I think the volume of people volunteering in Scotland is just what you’d expect from Scots. It’s no surprise that in times of crisis people really do come together.

“I would encourage anyone to start volunteering. It’s really satisfying and great for your mental health.”

Adding her thanks, Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said:

“Ove the last few months, volunteers have been organising shopping, delivering food packages, dropping off medicines and helping support lonely neighbours with phone calls.

“On top of the thousands already giving their time and skill before the pandemic began, an extra 63,000 signed up through our Scotland Cares project.

“Like Neil, these volunteers are making a massive contribution. As we begin to ease some of the restrictions in place because of the virus, our volunteers will be at the heart of helping to build our communities back up again.”

Background

Volunteer case study

Neil Aitkenhead, a delivery driver at Start Up Stirling

Neil Aitkenhead, 62, lives in Thornhill, Stirlingshire, and started volunteering on 20 March with Start Up Stirling,  which helps people experiencing hardship.

Neil said: “I’m now living on my own since my wife, who has advanced Alzheimer’s, has moved into full-time care and is in hospital. After I was no longer her sole carer I felt like I had got my life back in some shape or form and  I wanted to give back to the community. My neighbour actually let me know that Start Up Stirling urgently needed more drivers.

“I volunteer at two sessions a week. I first started out as a driver but, when lockdown began, a few of us started shadowing the team leader, in case anything happened to him during the pandemic. On Tuesdays I shadow the team leader and on Thursdays I head to the depot, roll up my sleeves and do anything that needs doing. From making up delivery packs for the vans, pulling fresh fruit and vegetable deliveries together and receiving incoming deliveries from supermarkets and donors. I’ll be driving again soon but volunteers generally just help wherever they can at Start Up Stirling.

“My experience at Start Up Stirling has been so enriching. There are people from all backgrounds who volunteer; some people who have been having a hard time in their personal life, others who have been laid off from their businesses and many people like me who are retired and just love the companionship. I think everyone has had a time in their lives when they’ve been down on their luck and they’ve needed to reach out to people for help. I’ve had plenty of support from many organisations with my wife so I really want to give back to the community.

“The best part about being a delivery driver is that you’re encountering the people who really need your help. You’re essentially the public face of Start Up Stirling and the people receiving the food deliveries are always delighted to see you. It is really eye opening to see the variety of people who rely on foodbanks. There are people from all parts of society who need our help.

“I think the volume of people volunteering in Scotland is just what you’d expect from Scots. It’s no surprise that in times of crisis people really do come together. I’ve been overwhelmed with how nice the people at Start Up Stirling are.

“I would encourage anyone to start volunteering - I think you really get a glow from having helped someone with no expectation of a reward. It’s really satisfying and great for your mental health.”