Step In and Step Up: volunteering in the pandemic

When the government announced a call out for NHS responders to help vulnerable people at the start of the pandemic, I like many others applied straight away. I decided to be a caller – checking in on people to see if they needed anything, or simply provide them with a listening ear, as many of these people were living alone and at the time, not allowed to leave the house and they felt isolated.   

One month after applying, I had received no job requests despite going ‘on call’ before starting work, during lunch hours, after work, at weekends and on bank holidays.  

Then a friend told me about The Drive Forward Foundation based in London. I read about their work and the people they support and felt that I could do something, particularly because the subjects I teach are creative. I am also a freelance journalist and wanted to do something which lifted the lid on the world of the creative industries, such as writing, blogging, acting, dancing and Journalism as these may have been areas that young people in care may have thought were closed to them previously. I was also reminded of the fact that young people in care or care leavers will have felt isolated pre Covid 19 and during the pandemic these feelings will have been exacerbated for some.  

A few years ago, following a traumatic event two younger members of my family became very vulnerable and I recall feelings of sadness and fear being replaced with a desire and need to step in and step up. And I know for many families this either does not happen, or it is more complicated than the situation young members of my family found themselves in, so I wanted to give back. This felt deeply personal to me.  

I have run six workshops online and even though I had not delivered in this way before, the challenges and limitations of Zoom provide you with a real learning curve. As the weeks rolled by, each session ran more smoothly than the last.   

I wanted the young people to get a great deal from these weekly Q&As, even if it simply acted as a distraction from Lockdown and an increase in Netflix usage. I have also got a tremendous amount from it as well.  

Looking out at these smiling faces and answering their highly articulate questions alongside a former student of mine for two of the sessions (who has excelled, delivering two workshops and really connecting with these young people) and other creatives, some of whom I know from my journalism experience and others who answered a twitter call-out, made me forget momentarily that we were in the middle of a pandemic.  

I said to myself at the beginning that if just one of these young people who attends writes one blog entry, poem, play, script or story then this small idea which blossomed into a programme of events, will mean that I and the people who volunteered with me will have made a huge difference at a time when we could have just retreated to box sets and hid from the world. And when you see the same faces returning or someone thanking a guest for saying something particularly pertinent to them, you can see the impact there and then.  

All good things must come to an end, yet I am sad to finish my work here. But I have no doubt that I will continue to support these young people in whatever way I can. I have the bug now.      

Glenn Meads

I teach Access to English, Writing and Media to adults (19+) who are keen to go to University, following a break in their education. I am also a freelance journalist and I currently write theatre reviews and features for ILoveMcr website, which focuses on positive stories, especially right now. I have also written for the Manchester Evening News, Heat Magazine, Digital Spy, The Stage, Manchester Confidential and worked as a regional editor and reviewer for WhatsOnStage.com. I began writing when I was at college by working as unpaid intern for my local newspaper. Since then I have interviewed the likes of Enrique Iglesias, Willy Russell, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor and have managed to teach and coach teachers full time and write in the evenings.

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COVID-19 is putting care leavers at risk

It’s a global crisis, and we need your help to get through it.

Care leavers are one of the most overlooked and underrepresented groups in the UK. Today, they’re also among those affected by the Coronavirus crisis. You can help them stay safe, healthy and motivated. Donate to our Covid-19 care leaver fund or volunteer your time and skills and support care leavers to stay on track to fulfill their full potential.