How do you volunteer during lockdown?

Owen Thomas

We asked Owen Thomas, a volunteer at Fryers House in Romsey, to tell us what lockdown has been like for him. Here, Owen tells us how he managed to keep helping our residents despite having to self-isolate. 

A male wheelchair user at a table, smiling at the camera

Back in March, I had to answer a question I wasn’t expecting. How do I keep on doing what I love – volunteering at Fryers House – when I can’t go out, let alone go to the service itself?

When, all those weeks ago, Boris Johnson told us to stay at home, I’d already been doing just that for a week. Being disabled, I self-isolated as soon as I had to, and very soon after I took that decision all Leonard Cheshire services closed to visitors to protect residents.

What volunteering looks like during a lockdown

First, I was apprehensive that I wouldn’t be able to carry on the work I do with residents at Fryers, but I soon found a way around lockdown. I put my IT skills to good use first of all by making nice templates for residents to be able to send messages to their friends and relatives. 

It felt really good to carry on doing my bit. It gave a sense of purpose. And I’d only just got started. My next move was to go around local primary schools to ask students – who had all been sent home – to make Easter cards for residents. To my delight, loads said yes. It’s such a big thing to make residents less lonely in these times, and I was really overwhelmed by the response. 

After this bit of success, I decided to do the same thing for St. Bridget’s, a Leonard Cheshire service in Littlehampton. I also got in touch with local clubs to try and arrange volunteering awareness talks at Fryers for when the lockdown is lifted.

Being able to volunteer gave me comfort

And it really is as easy as that – once I got going, I was able to do a lot for residents from home. This isn’t an easy time for anyone – I have missed birthdays, catch-ups, even my friend having a child since the start of lockdown. And nothing can prepare you for the boredom and restlessness that comes from being cooped up.

But being able to bring a bit of comfort to people and keep doing what I love really helps me stay positive. In times like these, you’ve got to find what brings you joy – and most of that you can still do from home.