National charity Revitalise celebrate their volunteers who are still providing support to those who need it
In celebration of National Volunteers Week (1-7 June), Revitalise, usually known for creating respite holidays for disabled people and their carers for over 55 years, are sharing the experiences of some of their volunteer staff, as they work through unique circumstances to keep the charity’s three respite centres running through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Revitalise’s Chief Operating Officer Jo Morgan said:
“We are so proud of our wonderful volunteers. Our guests usually tell us that volunteers are vital in making their stay at Revitalise extra special, and it is no different during the pandemic. Their roles have changed day to day, but they remain positive and committed, providing much-needed support to our guests during this critical time.”
Susana Elvira Cheppe Vidal is volunteering for the second time at the Revitalise Sandpipers centre in Merseyside, where she has been since November 2019 and intends to be there until August 2020. She says of her experiences:
“I chose to volunteer at Revitalise because I’d heard positive experiences from friends who had also volunteered there. Before the pandemic a typical day involved going on day trips out of the centre with guests, socialising, helping out during mealtimes or even just chatting and enjoying entertainment with them in the evening.”
I chose to stay at Revitalise during COVID-19 because the centre is a place that makes me feel safe and because I understand that during this time more than ever, disabled people need care and support because it may be difficult for them to access this at home.”
“Some activities continue to be the same, such as helping guests during mealtimes, going out with them to get some fresh air, helping in the restaurant or bar, but the centre is not a holiday now. The environment is still pleasant, we enjoy activities like bingo, karaoke, pool, or artistic presentations by the guests themselves.”
“Many people feel safe and cared for at Revitalise. The work of a volunteer is always important, because often you can be the hands for those who cannot feed themselves or at other times the company they need to not feel alone.”
18-year-old Camila Perez started volunteering at Revitalise Jubilee Lodge in March 2020. She chose Revitalise specifically to care for people with special needs as she wants to become a Doctor. She found the language barrier difficult at first but as she grew in confidence with English, she found she made new friends and really enjoyed her experience.
Camila describes a typical day before COVID-19 as ‘really fun and loud and always surrounded by people and talking to guests all the time.’ Once the pandemic started, the borders to her home country were closed, however Camila believes she “would keep volunteering to see a different perspective of how life is for disabled people. The centre has changed because I can sadly no longer interact with guests to the same extent, which is a huge part of the Revitalise experience and I miss the live entertainment in the evenings.” Camilla describes the best thing to come from volunteering to be the satisfaction of helping others.
Rocio del Pilar Coronel is a volunteer at Revitalise Jubilee Lodge who has been with Revitalise since Jun 2019. She says of her experience at Revitalise:
“I enjoy volunteering at Revitalise as I like to help disabled people. I can share different experiences with other volunteers from different countries and improve my English. This experience has helped me grow more as a person and take risks in my life. For this, I am grateful.”
Rocio believes disabled people are facing new challenges due to COVID-19, such as “stress, anxiety, depression, since they cannot go out and they can only talk to their relatives by video conference or calls, but I think that nothing will be like before.”
Some volunteers weren’t able to continue working at Revitalise centres and were forced to return home. Sally was a long term volunteer at Revitalise Jubilee Lodge, who had to cut her placement short and return to Germany when the pandemic struck. She describes how she felt when she realised she would not be able to carry on volunteering:
“I felt confused in the moment I found out I had to go back to Germany despite still having four months to stay at Revitalise. I felt like I was going to lose my second family and I couldn’t even prepare myself for that moment. I didn’t want to go home because Revitalise was my home.
“I miss all the amazing people from the staff and the guests, many of them have become good friends of mine. I miss all the little jokes over the days we had together.
“I really want to return to Revitalise once I am able to because this place has something magical. I didn’t realise that when I was there but in the moment I went back to Germany I understood what a special place I just left. I would say the best thing about volunteering is that your own personality can grow through all the new experiences you make and you can learn so much about yourself. I have learned a lot as a volunteer but I would say the main thing is that I learned what I want in life.”
Revitalise are offering their facilities at Revitalise Sandpipers and Netley Waterside House in Southampton, as a place to stay safe either short or long term, for disabled people who have struggled during lockdown with mental health, anxiety, feeling isolated or who are no longer able to get the care they need at home.
Anybody who would like to become a volunteer at Revitalise or is worried about whether their care support at home can continue, should contact Revitalise, who are able to offer long or short stays with full care support in place.
For more information visit: www.revitalise.org.uk