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A call to arms: charity leaders must unite for final COVID fight

Catherine Johnstone CBE, Royal Voluntary Service chief executive, writes about the Hour of Need campaign.

A narrated version of this blog is available at the bottom of the page

If 12 months ago we’d have been told what the next year had in store, I for one would have found it hard to believe. We have all been part of history in the making.

Now as the monumental rollout of the vaccine has commenced, we are finally starting to see light at the end of the tunnel that is the COVID-19 crisis. However, there remain huge challenges to overcome before life can start to return to normal. In what we hope are the final months of the crisis we all need to join together to support the nation in its ‘Hour of Need’.

Making a difference together

The Hour of Need campaign we’ve launched aims to rally the tens of thousands of volunteers that are still needed to see the most vulnerable members of society and the NHS through this difficult winter safely. What’s amazing is that we’re already seeing a return to that heart-warming groundswell of people stepping forward that we saw back in March. A crucial part of this recruitment is for many thousands of volunteers to support the delivery of the unprecedented vaccination programme.

The call to action

If any of your volunteers have had their usual volunteering paused, or staff have been furloughed, we invite you to ask them to lend their support. My team and I have already reached out to many of you, and I have been truly heartened by the response so far as you have come forward to join us.

I also absolutely appreciate that we are all living and working through very challenging times and that many charities and volunteers are already at capacity and are, understandably, unable to offer any further support.

However, we know many volunteers and staff are missing the amazing work they usually do and the sense of purpose it gives them. We believe that stepping up in this call to arms will be a great use of their skills and will be incredibly rewarding.

There are lots of different ways they can help, whether flexible or regular volunteering. From helping vulnerable people with their shopping, friendly phone calls or transport as an NHS Volunteer Responder, to assisting the COVID-19 vaccination programme in variety of roles.  

Royal Voluntary Service has prioritised these critical areas of endeavour, as keeping vulnerable people safe and well whilst they wait for their vaccination has proven to be essential thus far and clearly the sooner we can vaccinate the population, then the better the outcomes will be for all of us. 

The benefits of us coming together are priceless:

  • Demonstrate real practical collaboration across charities and community organisations.
  • Offer meaningful volunteer opportunities for your furloughed staff and other staff if you feel appropriate.
  • Offer opportunity to be able to re-engage your volunteers with a purposeful offer whilst they wait for their usual roles to be re-established.
  • Support some of the most vulnerable individuals to stay safe and well whilst shielding and waiting for their vaccination to reduce pressure on the NHS
  • Support the vaccination programme to move as quickly as possible so that we can save lives and reduce restrictions which is of benefit to everyone.

I’ve never been more proud of our sector and of what we collectively have achieved. 

Whether working nationally or locally charities have and continue to play a vitally important, often life-saving role helping Britain’s most vulnerable people and communities. We complement each other, and when we work collegiately we deliver more and deliver better.

There are difficult months ahead and I know we will stand together to get the job done. The quicker we do this, the faster all the communities we support will start to recover and finally get back on track.

Let’s fight the final fight, together.

Narrated by a member of the ACEVO staff

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