I’m Helen Brown from Whitby, North Yorkshire and proud to say I’m a ‘Ready For Anything’ Volunteer for NYCC. It definitely gets a reaction when you say you’re ‘Ready For Anything’! It is a good post dinner conversation starter!
Recently, my readiness for anything has been tested in a way I’d never thought possible. As the world has been under immense stress regarding the Covid-19 Pandemic, I’m not sure even the most ‘ready’ of us could ever have been prepared for what we are living through right now.
‘Ready For Anything’ (RFA) was initially a volunteer scheme set up by North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum (NYLRF) which coordinates the response during an emergency. It was set up after the county was hit dramatically by flooding and there was a realisation that with help of volunteers in local areas the emergency response could have been even better.
I put my name forward as a volunteer in 2018. When you hear of major incidents unfolding, I’d often think to myself ‘How can I help?’. RFA appealed to me for this reason. As volunteers we are an extra pair of hands, a reassuring smiley face, a listening ear whilst supporting the emergency responding agencies at an incident.
During my time as a RFA volunteer I’ve done lots of training and had some brilliant experiences. It’s been a pleasure to get to know the NYLRF staff and other volunteers. I’ve had awareness sessions on mountain rescue, counter terrorism/recognising suspicious people, ‘Project Servator’, First Aid & taken part in Multi Agency Response Training Exercises. I’ve attended: a Silver Tactical Group Exercise at Riccall with a scenario of a large fire on an Industrial Estate, ‘Rainbow Rose’ UCI World Cycling Championships Tactical Exercise in Harrogate & ‘Plaza’ Exercise which was a multi-agency training exercise in a high-rise tower block in Middlesbrough involving a fire and evacuation.
I’ve even had my moment of fame on BBC Look North in regard to what I learned about ‘Project Servator’ as a RFA Volunteer.
Recently though no training could prepare you to be a volunteer ready for the covid-19 pandemic. It has been a huge learning curve for all of us.
Most of my role, in relation to Covid-19 volunteering, has involved door knocking to the most vulnerable shielded people checking they are supported & distributing NYCC emergency contact leaflets in case they require shopping, prescriptions etc.
Our community in Whitby is geographically isolated & with a high population of elderly. NYCC doesn’t have boots on the ground in the town, there are few organisations based in Whitby so RFA volunteers have been a useful resource to help support our most vulnerable quickly and easily.
I’ve met some fascinating and truly inspiring people, many of whom were extremely vulnerable but so determined and upbeat despite everything. The strength of the human character never ceases to amaze me, and you learn what is truly important in life. I’ll never forget the people I’ve met and helped. It’s made me understand the importance of how we are a stronger society if we all pull together. As well as my RFA volunteering, I also registered as one of the NHS Goodsam Volunteer responders, have been supporting neighbours, family and locals getting shopping, prescriptions, chatting to the isolated and set up a Facebook group ‘Stronger Together Whitby & District During Covid -19’.
You think volunteering is all about helping others but what I’ve learned throughout this is it also helps you as the volunteer. Having the focus of volunteering and caring for others gives me a purpose and has helped me cope throughout these difficult last few months. Like everything in life, the more you give the more you get. Ready or not, I’m extremely thankful to be ‘Ready For Anything’ because by volunteering my help it has helped me through this difficult and unprecedented time.
Helen Jayne Brown