Assistance for those affected by Covid

Helpers ensure those isolating are supported

Judith Lacy





When you have Covid-19 or could have the virus there’s no passing go. It’s go home and stay home. While some people will be able to rely on wha¯nau and friends to get essential items, for others that’s not possible. Volunteer Central has developed the essential wellbeing volunteer role, people who are on standby to pick up and deliver essential items for those in supported isolation and quarantine (SIQ). Volunteer Central manager Kate Aplin says when the Government decided to scale down MIQ facilities, funding was made available through Civil Defence for communities looking at how SIQ could be managed. During last year’s lockdown, many different organisations were doing food deliveries, which meant an increased risk of spreading the virus. Aplin has a background in public health and was keen to develop a way to do deliveries that decreased risk. A response that was not coordinated was also not a good use of resources, as some people were taking advantage of the free deliveries. She knew of one household that had four deliveries from different providers on the same day. MidCentral District Health Board’s Public Health Unit monitors the health of those in quarantine and isolation and passes on welfare needs to Volunteer Central. One volunteer will then do the required pick-ups and deliveries the DHB has arranged. Scott Groves decided to be an essential wellbeing volunteer because friends of his in the United States and South Africa have died of Covid-19 in their homes because support was not available. “If I can save or help just one Kiwi from the same fate then my life is complete,” the Palmerston North man says. Groves says there are many procedures in place to protect his safety and he has received a massive psychological boost from completing each delivery. “Volunteering and having contact with people alongside the greater self-purpose gained is better than any pill from a doctor.” His favourite SIQ role so far was finding specific cat food to save a starving feline. Aplin says if a cat owner feels their cat is not getting the right food, that is potentially a reason to leave quarantine. One household told her it was such a relief to know they could pick up the phone or email and items would be delivered. Palmerston North administrator Jo Stephens is an essential wellbeing volunteer, her first volunteering role. She enjoys knowing she has played a small role in helping someone with their daily needs during a difficult time. “I consider myself lucky to be able to help others.” Stephens says the role is minimal-risk and easily fits around her schedule. Protecting the privacy of those in SIQ is important and volunteers are not given names. Purchase orders are used and volunteers are not allowed to talk or see the people in SIQ. Volunteers made 14 deliveries before Christmas but none were needed over the holiday period. Volunteer Central got funding from the DHB to set up the programme. Volunteers are provided with masks, sanitiser, identification and reimbursement for vehicle costs. Volunteers need a full driver’s licence and to own a vehicle. Aplin is complimentary about how the MidCentral community has dealt with Covid so far. “This community has managed to work responsibly to keep things calm and reduce the spread as much as possible.” Aplin says the programme is about trying to avoid the virus getting into the community and the huge ripple effects of essential workers having to isolate. “By reducing community spread we allow the community to keep functioning.” To find out more about being an essential wellbeing volunteer, ring 354 6027 or email info@volunteercentral. nz.