THE Sun’s Dr Zoe swapped her stethoscope for a high-vis vest last week when she volunteered at a vaccine clinic as part of our Helping Hands At Christmas campaign.
Having assisted nervous patients and helped vaccinators at the busy London pharmacy, GP Zoe said: “It’s been brilliant working with the volunteer team.
“I know the NHS has so many fantastic volunteers who keep things moving but there are volunteers in all sectors of the community and today shows that.
Fairlee Pharmacy in Clapham, South West London, where Zoe volunteered has been a family-run community pharmacy for more than four decades.
Husband and wife managers Viraj and Bhavisha Karia could never have imagined how much they’d need selfless volunteers when they put themselves forward to be a vaccine centre during the Covid jabs roll out.
“Having Dr Zoe volunteer has been fantastic,” said Bhavisha, an optician and vaccinator at the pharmacy.
“We’ve got over 90 amazing volunteers from all parts of our local community — our WhatsApp group is huge.
‘I’ve done my duty’
“We’ve never struggled to get the amount of volunteers we need, even when queues for vaccines have been down the road. We couldn’t do what we do without them.”
For The Sun’s Christmas campaign we’re asking readers to support Royal Voluntary Service.
To volunteer or donate go to royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/helpinghands
First established in 1938, it’s the UK’s biggest volunteering charity. In its eight decades, it has provided millions of volunteers to projects across the country, from phone befriending schemes to lunch clubs, hospital and pharmacy volunteers, dementia support and activity volunteers.
Dr Zoe joined volunteer security worker Philus Akinlaja, medical student Christine Tuvi, company director Aileen Richards, Elvire Bella Griffin and retired Brigadier Ian McLeod.
Security worker Philus, 36, said how lovely it was having Zoe visit: “She’s so friendly and lovely with everyone. I can tell she’s an amazing doctor.
“It’s always a lovely atmosphere volunteering here and Zoe’s made it even better. I’ve been volunteering since the start of the pandemic, I love it.
“I was doing 20 hours a week while I was looking for a job but now I have one I can’t do as many hours. I’ll keep doing it though. It makes me feel good, I like being able to help and it makes me happy.
“Whenever I’ve volunteered I always sleep well because I’ve done my duty and helped others. It’s just the best.” Dr Zoe provided information for potential patients asking about vaccinations and was quick to pay tribute to the amazing volunteers who turn up without fail.
Zoe said: “It’s not just Covid vaccinations and boosters they’re giving here, they’ve got a hugely successful flu vaccine programme and a polio vaccine programme for children too.
“They’re a family pharmacy at the heart of the community, what they’re doing here and how they’re doing it is incredible.
“The volunteers are dealing with patients who speak different languages and people who are scared and nervous about getting their vaccines. They’re so warm, helpful and friendly here. I’m not surprised they’re busy.
“What’s so lovely about it is the diversity. Christine’s just 19 and Ian’s in his 80s. There’s different genders and cultures — the volunteers are a cross-section of the fantastic community.”
Ian, 81, who was a brigadier in the para-chute regiment and worked for the Red Cross before retiring.
He’s volunteered since the start of the pandemic, first as a phone befriender and then in the Science Museum vaccination centre before starting at the pharmacy in September last year.
He said: “Covid felt like a threat to our country and after more than three decades in the Army I wanted to do something to help.”
Dr Zoe applauded all volunteers who give their time to help others. She said: “It’s clear to see just how important volunteering is. It makes a huge difference.
“There are programmes and initiatives all over the country that are able to happen because selfless people — like the team here at the pharmacy — have given their time to help other people.