Sandy helps people to solve their problems and if he can’t solve them he connects them with an organisation that can. “They might not want to tell the mother-in-law they're getting a little bit depressed. But if it's someone from Red Cross who they've never met before, and they'll never meet again, they're more prepared to discuss things.”
If someone is feeling unwell or has symptoms Sandy provides them with direct phone numbers for the Department of Health. “There'll be a nurse on the other end … who'll then over the telephone decide is this really a symptom of coronavirus or just a bit of a cough and cold.”
Some people are scared, he says. “The first day they're in isolation [they] think 'Oh, this is going to be a breeze.' A couple of days later it starts to get to them: 'Hang on, I'm going to be here for 14 days. I'm starting to get a bit of a sore throat.' They start to get concerned about what's really happening to them and they've got no one to speak to.
“We make lots of notes as we're talking to the people and if I don't ring them tomorrow somebody else will but we'll have the notes.”
When phone calls go unanswered or there are other concerns police can be called to go and check the person is okay, he says.
The volunteers also help people understand exactly what self-isolation means. Some people think it’s okay to walk their dog or get a bit of fresh air, Sandy says.
“Young people particularly are infallible … ‘I feel good, there's nothing wrong with me. Maybe I can go out and have a beer with my mates.’ That's just not on. You've to explain it's not themselves they're endangering, it could be other people around that they're endangering.”
Red Cross’ role is vital, he says.
Sandy has been volunteering since he retired 10 years ago and has helped during many emergencies including bushfires and floods. He knows he’s doing something worthwhile and valuable. “You go home after a hard day and feel good because you've helped 20, 50 or even 100 people just by talking to them in a friendly voice.”
Many people thank Sandy and tell him how grateful they are for his phone call. He lets every single one of them know we care and that a Red Cross volunteer will ring them again tomorrow.