“The need for volunteers is still low in some areas, and we’re asking for your patience” said the email from Volunteer Scotland. Wow. Too many volunteers, not enough patients.
I do remember, particularly as a student (when there were too many graduates and not enough internships) being told “due to the high number of applications we are unable … but we will keep your details on file.” One of the (many) crazy aspects of the “Corona crisis” is that pretty much the same thing is being said to people volunteering to work for free. In times of economic crisis the unemployed would join the “dole queue.” In this crisis we have a (socially distanced) volunteer queue. What on earth is going on?
When the COVID epidemic broke out I planned to zip around on my motorbike, delivering critical medicines to people in self-isolation: think Médecins sans frontières meets Postman Pat. I know many others are also trying to help and I want to explain why I think so few of us have been called upon (yet), and share some information on how to get involved. It may be hard at first, but with a little bit of persistence you can get through. The way I see it, when am I next going to get an opportunity to do something socially useful like this again?
So where do you start? If you search online you quickly find a link to an NHS page where you can “Volunteer to help the NHS with coronavirus.” That sounds great, but this is just for NHS England and I live in Scotland! It’s not that straightforward in England either (I’ll come back to that in a minute), but the idiosyncratic experience of trying to volunteer in Scotland is revealing.