A friendly caring voice in challenging times

Every day volunteers across the country are calling people who have been left isolated and vulnerable by the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re letting people know someone cares and they’re not forgotten.
Sandy has phoned hundreds of people who are self-isolating after having come back from overseas. “Sometimes this is the only contact they have with the outside world. It's not a one-minute conversation – sometimes it's a 10-minute conversation because they're desperate to talk to somebody.”

Social connection is more important than ever when you are isolated. Our volunteers provide comfort and reassurance, says Sandy.

“It's reassuring them somebody cares… and encourage them to stick with the self-isolation, there is light at the end of the tunnel … I emphasise ‘someone will ring you tomorrow’.”

Sandy shares the latest information on mental health services, food delivery options, and community service hotlines and grants for people in financial difficulty. "We're the experts with the contacts. We're giving valuable information because it simply isn't available to them through their other contacts.”

He checks people are okay, their families are okay and they have enough food. He might chat about what they are doing and plans they have to fill in their time.
"It's a case of being personal and asking how things are with the family. They're so grateful someone is talking to them … ringing them to say, ‘Hi, how's it going?’"

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.

"Someone needs to reassure them there is light at the end of the tunnel. Someone needs to make sure they are well … there are people that have been forgotten."

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.

Interested in volunteering?

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