Covid - A Year On: Volunteers on playing their part in vaccination effort

Alison Friend has volunteered at Covid vaccination centres in Havering.

Alison Friend has volunteered at Covid vaccination centres in Havering. - Credit: Alison Friend

"When they were doing the over-80s, some of them were skipping down that corridor. They had not been out for months, they were just so happy to be there. It's a bit selfish really because it gives you a buzz."

Lisa Shukri is among the army of people who have given up their time to help out at Covid vaccination centres.

She has been volunteering at Victoria Hospital in Romford since January after being furloughed at Christmas from her job as a receptionist in the City.

The Gidea Park resident has been on registration, monitored numbers in and out of vaccination rooms and been a marshal.

She has also enjoyed speaking to people waiting in the observation area when they have had the Pfizer jab.

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"You could actually talk to people. Some of them hadn't been out for months and they were just talking about how they can't wait to see their family.

"My job is reception anyway so I've always been a talker with people. It's just nice to hear people's stories.

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"They're just really pleased to be there mostly."

Lisa was unable to start her new job at an underwriters at the start of the pandemic, so she was funded by Havering Council to work at Havering Volunteer Centre (HVC) between April and September, taking calls from people in need of support.

She said: "Ending up at the volunteer centre has changed my perspective on everything.

"Those early days were just constant phone calls. It was the very beginning of lockdown, people couldn't get shopping, they didn't have help. I can't sing their praises enough and the volunteer centre really stepped up.

"They were delivering loads of food parcels every day, picking up prescriptions, we were answering about 400 calls daily."

She now volunteers at HVC once a week, takes on around two shifts at the vaccine centre and is back working on flexi-furlough in the City.

Lisa said there are not enough shifts to go round the number of vaccine centre volunteers, adding: "We have a lot of new volunteers who haven't volunteered before, it's something about the vaccine roll-out that a lot of people have come forward. 

"They just love it. I think it's just being part of this thing that is hopefully going to get us out of the situation we're in."

Another volunteer is Alison Friend, who works as a senior midday supervisor at Scargill Junior School in Rainham.

Since the end of January, she has volunteered on weekends and in half-term at both the Hornchurch Library and Victoria Hospital vaccination centres.

Hornchurch Library

Hornchurch Library is hosting one of Havering's two Covid vaccination centres. - Credit: Google

Her duties have included greeting patients outside of the centres, assisting those in waiting areas, making sure seated areas are sanitised and directing patients to vaccination pods.

The Elm Park resident said: "I volunteered as I wanted to give something to the local community and try to play a part in getting some normality back into the world.

"I am also a keyworker at a local primary school and have worked throughout both lockdowns so am aware of the importance of people playing parts in such operations.

"The atmospheres at the centres are so positive and everyone is so friendly. It's definitely one of the best decisions I've made sending that initial enquiry email."

Keely Barker began volunteering at Oxlow Lane pharmacy in Dagenham, Oxlow Chemist, in early February.

Her dad, aunt and nan have all died since the pandemic began, which she described as "soul-destroying".

Keely, from Dagenham, goes to the pharmacy most days: "As much as I am petrified of catching the virus, I hated being stuck indoors with no one to talk to as I live alone.

"This opportunity came up and it was a way of me getting back out after nearly a year between four walls. 

"Seeing and talking to people is helping me socially and helping with my confidence, but mostly to give back to the community in such hard times.

"I felt helpless not being able to do anything so what better way to help out."

HVC is supporting the vaccination programme in Havering - anyone interested in volunteering can visit

To volunteer at sites across Barking and Dagenham, visit

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