Volunteering through a pandemic: Mazzie and Cindy’s story

Mazzie and Cindy, both 69 from Brighton, talk us through their volunteering experience to help with the COVID-19 effort.
Older woman smiling on phone

Once neighbours, their paths have crossed again volunteering for Healthwatch Brighton and Hove as part of a hospital discharge project, providing telephone support wellbeing checks to people leaving hospital.

“We were both Lay Assessors, but when lockdown took force, we couldn’t continue, so joined the new project at Healthwatch Brighton and Hove.

“I can’t go out because I have to shield my husband – so it seemed a good time to start helping in other ways” says Cindy.

“Especially when there’s not a lot going on right now - I’m not able to see my daughters or grandchildren because they’re in London. I needed to be doing something to help” adds Mazzie.

Wellbeing checks

The project has been live for just over a month and is in partnership with the local council and hospitals in Brighton. A total of 146 people have been contacted so far, with 12% being referred back to the hospital discharge team and a significant 43% signposted for additional community support, including Possibility People’s Link Back scheme that supports older people after a hospital stay.

“During the pandemic, professionals will be off sick, so we’re providing back up support, ringing up and making sure no one slips through the net. There’s a whole team of us” says Mazzie.

“I’ve contacted about 25 patients so far. We’re establishing how the discharge itself went and if there were any issues raised” says Cindy. 

“No two calls are alike – it’s been quite a contrast. I’ve spoken to a couple of 92-year olds who now do online shopping! Whereas some people are lost by the whole thing and don’t know what’s going on - everyone has their own needs.

“Only two people I’ve spoken to have a computer. It’s important we’re still reaching these people and providing them with the correct information” says Cindy.

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Supporting the community

“From people who have had a fall and now need home-help, signposting families to our carer’s hub, or providing advice to people who are newly incontinent, no two calls are the same.

“You need to stay calm and focused for them. Sometimes you’ve got to act as a punchbag, but I don’t take things personally” says Cindy.   

“Relatives seem unsure what support is available to them, or what is available in terms of respite during lockdown. Often issues are easily resolved by putting people in touch with the right person or provider that can help.

“You do get difficult ones – I had a daughter isolating in another county who was beside herself with worry after her mum had been discharged” says Mazzie.

“But there are positive stories too” adds Cindy.

I had one older lady who had recovered from coronavirus, after being in the high dependency unit. Day by day, she built up her strength, practicing climbing her steps at home, and by the fourth day she had climbed up her whole staircase.

Helping me, helping you

“The social experience has been invaluable, for me and them” says Cindy, “There’s always a positive feeling. I’m grateful to still be able to do some volunteering. If I can help someone, it’s a win-win situation”.  

“Everybody is concerned about people’s mental health during lockdown. When you give and help and support others, it does wonders for your wellbeing” adds Mazzie.

Why should other people consider volunteering?

“To enhance a sense of community – very much so. You have your neighbours, but it needs to extend, people need to be aware of their communities again” says Cindy.

“It’s a very fulfilling thing” says Mazzie, “You get so much back, people are so pleased to hear from you. What’s not to like about it? You’re offering support at a time where people need it most, and people are so delighted. It’s not very altruistic!

“I would recommend volunteering to anybody. If people have time and you’re a good match for what you’re volunteering for, it can be very rewarding” Mazzie says.

Volunteering from home:

“Our manager Will is excellent in the way he’s set the project up and is managing it. There are clear pathways to signpost people if there are concerns, and we have zoom calls to clarify things if anything new emerges. We have regular get-togethers and discuss any issues or problems.  

“Working from home gives you flexibility for volunteering around your own life and commitments. Life’s got to have balance!” says Mazzie.

Why did you choose to volunteer?

“It keeps you young! You meet other like-minded people, and there is a social element too. I worked in the NHS in primary care management before I retired and wanted to continue helping. I was interested in the watchdog role Healthwatch has from a patient perspective” says Mazzie.

“I’ve been volunteering for a while now - I did a lot of work with the Samaritans before I had my family. I started volunteering again six years ago after retiring.  I’ve been a Lay Assessor volunteer for three years now and joined Healthwatch Brighton and Hove about a year ago” says Cindy.

Interested in volunteering?

Becoming a Healthwatch volunteer is easy. Get in touch with your local Healthwatch to find out about volunteering opportunities in your area.

Find volunteering opportunities near you