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Rotarians signpost the way to Covid freedom

Rotarians signpost the way to Covid freedom

Rotarians across Great Britain and Ireland have been volunteering at Covid clinics across these Isles. It has been a mammoth effort, showcasing the very best of Rotary. In Cumbria, members of Furness, Furness Peninsula and Barrow-in-Furness Rotary clubs have been working together to support the vaccination programme.

Here, Peter Garwood from Furness Rotary, who has been the linchpin behind the successful project in Barrow-in-Furness, reflects on a successful six months on the frontline.

A while ago, a very small group of Rotarians from all three Rotary clubs in Barrow-on-Furness got together for the start of a brand new community-based project.

A Rotarian volunteer marshal at the Alfred Barrow Medical Centre for the Covid vaccination programme.

183 days ago, just 17 Rotarians presented themselves at Alfred Barrow Medical Centre as volunteer marshals on the very first day of the vaccination programme. 

Nobody had a clear idea of what was required of us, however as good Rotarians, instinct and ability soon took over.

We have faced cold rain, snow, high winds, hail and even some sunshine.”

We made up things as we went along. We started to learn a new vocabulary with words like social distancing, sanitizing, jabs, clinicians, DNAs and PODS. We began to use phrases like “can you manage stairs?” and “are you here for your 1st or 2nd?”, “have you read the sheet?”, “this way to freedom”, “move on to the next yellow jacket”.

We quickly became experts in dealing with the anxious, the stressed, the clinically vulnerable, the needle phobic and lots and lots of people with issues. 

We learnt from our mistakes. We changed things around, we moved furniture, we opened up a new entrance and a new exit, we adapted, but always with a smile and a kind word.

6 months and 1 day since we started we have grown in numbers, the team of volunteers is now nearly 90 strong, made up of Rotarians, friends, friends of friends, family and contacts. 

In that time, we have been present on 77 days, sometimes just 18 of us, and other days 70 plus spread over four sessions. We have covered 86 clinics and contributed 6,151 volunteer hours to the project.

We have faced cold rain, snow, high winds, hail and even some sunshine.

We have been praised and thanked by hundreds of individuals, and yes we have been cursed by two or three, and we all have great memories of our experiences working together. 

Six months and one day into the project we are still willing to continue with enthusiasm and a smile.”

We constantly show willingness and enthusiasm and still manage to smile through, and I am constantly surprised when I send out an email requesting availability and I get a positive reply in 45 seconds and 12 replies within 30 minutes.

Considering I tend to work at midnight, this makes me think that I am not the only insomniac, but then when I wake and check my computer at about 7am I find I have got a further 12 to 15 replies.

The rotas almost write themselves, for which sincere thanks. 

The top three Rotarian volunteers have contributed 546.25 hours so far (nearly but not quite matching my contribution). 

The top three non-Rotarians and volunteers have amassed a total of 436 hours between them, but they didn’t start until about three weeks after the project began.

Rotarian, Peter Garwood, from Furness Rotary who is behind the successful vaccination programme in Cumbria.

Six months and one day into the project we are still willing to continue with enthusiasm and a smile. 

We have lost one or two volunteers along the way but still have a list of people ready to step up and join us.

We are not yet finished but we are now getting somewhere!  

At some point during this evening’s clinic a patient receiving their injection, on the continuing road to freedom became the 55,000th person to be vaccinated since the project began.

Thank you, 55,000 times, for all your efforts.