Student volunteer lends a friendly ear to the lonely

A University of Chester student is reaching out to her local community, in spite of lockdown restrictions.
Postgraduate student, Franceska Shollo, is working as a ‘Check-in and Chat’ with the NHS Volunteer Responders’ Royal Voluntary Service, providing much-needed telephone support to isolating people at risk of feeling lonely. Fran decides when she wants to be ‘on duty’ then receives requests for support via a ‘GoodSam’ app to which she has loaded her profile and location. Fran then confirms she can help and contacts the isolated person to offer a friendly voice and a listening ear.

Fran is enjoying the chance to develop her interpersonal skills and build a bridge, despite the current lockdown, to lonely people living in her local community.

She said: “Ever since the Government announced that it was going to recruit volunteers for the NHS I was very interested and keen to get involved. Most of the time, I keep things simple, asking people questions such as ‘How are you doing? Are you managing to get around the house? Have you spoken to anyone else today?’ I have always enjoyed being sociable and much more so, now, when I am more aware of the difference that it makes.

“Sadly, not everyone is with their family and many people live on their own, so a nice chat over the phone is always a good idea! Whilst it might feel awkward talking to a stranger we all have the same thing in common – we all want to be healthy and happy when all of this has finished.”

Fran is studying for a Master’s in Marketing Management and has already achieved her Gold Volunteering Award under the University’s volunteering scheme.

She added: “It is fascinating to see how much community spirit the current situation is generating. I strongly feel we all need each other more than ever right now. Thanks to the opportunity of volunteering for the NHS, I feel like I’m making my little contribution.”

The NHS Volunteer Responders initiative was set up to support the NHS and the care sector during the COVID-19 outbreak. It has since recruited an 'army' of volunteers who can support vulnerable people in England who are at most risk from the virus to stay well. Once volunteers have registered and their checks are complete, they receive a log-in to the GoodSAM Responder app. Volunteers must be 18 or over, and fit and well with no symptoms. Further information is available at:
https://www.goodsamapp.org/NHS

The Volunteering and Mentoring Team helps students make the most of their time at the University of Chester, through volunteer opportunities within the institution and in the community. Although many face-to-face volunteer activities have been postponed for the time being, the team have compiled a list of virtual volunteering activities for students to get involved with.

Shaunagh Smith, Volunteer Co-ordinator at the University, said: “We’re really encouraged to hear about how our students are helping people in the community in this difficult time. Well done to Franceska for taking the time to speak to people when they are most in need of a friendly voice.”

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