Over 400 volunteers. 200 days and counting. And 100,000+ phone calls.
These numbers tell part of the story – but they don’t speak to the tears and laughter shared between our Queensland volunteers and the people they’ve been speaking to in hotel quarantine. They don’t tell us about the emotional impact of being separated from family, friends and fresh air. Some conversations are happy, some are angry, many are life-changing and all of them have left their mark on our volunteers.
“It’s been very rewarding, it’s been exhausting, but it’s very special to be in a position where you know the work you are doing is helping people.”
As part of the support Red Cross has been providing people impacted by COVID-19 around the country, volunteers have been making check-in calls to those in hotel quarantine to see how people are coping and provide psychological first aid where needed.
They’ve spoken to people travelling to funerals, to care for sick family members, to escape unsafe living situations. People travelling to join family in other parts of the country to be together during the pandemic, those coming home from overseas military service for the first time in months, and one person who was keeping her return home a secret to give her family and friends a happy surprise at the end of the 14 days.
“The pandemic has made me see how important it is for individuals to feel connected to their community.” – Molly
It’s difficult to understand how hard hotel quarantine is unless you’ve been through it. Most don’t have access to fresh air, there’s no choice in food and basic decisions like when to eat are regulated.
Whilst everyone understands why it’s important and necessary to do this to beat COVID-19, the impact on someone’s health can be immense, with many people reporting that they’re experiencing anxiety for the first time, and those with existing mental health conditions saying that the quarantine conditions have exacerbated them. People are worried about their families, their own health and what will happen after they leave quarantine.
Each call is unique and callers are able to talk for as long as needed. Some conversations start with tears over the passing of a loved one and end with laughter and shared jokes. Some provide much needed practical help, connecting people with services for housing and financial support.
“Just the simple phrase ‘How are you today, are you ok?’ can have such a positive impact on someone in quarantine.” – Kathleen
There are also conversations that bring a smile: a couple about to have their first baby who took the hotel stay as an opportunity for one last ‘holiday’ before they become a family of three, poems shared between two writers and a mum grateful to have a break from cooking and doing dishes.
“It’s been wonderful to be part of this amazing team to create positive change and be of assistance to those that need it most. There’s nothing else that I would rather be doing during this unprecedented time.”
Throughout it all our volunteers are there, pouring their time and energy into every call, no matter what it brings. Every conversation is important, and every conversation makes things just a little bit better.
“In 70 years children will ask me what I did during the pandemic. I will say that it was a terrible time, but I did all I could to make it a little less terrible.” – Jared
5th February 2021 marked one year in our response to COVID-19, the longest emergency activation in Australian Red Cross history. In that time, over 460 Red Cross Emergency Services personnel have contributed approximately 860,000 hours to Queensland’s COVID-19 response. We’ve worked closely with people in home quarantine and across 45 different hotels to provide psychosocial support over 183,000 times. We have made calls in over 30 languages. On approximately 4,000 occasions we helped people receive additional support and care.
We will continue to support people in hotel quarantine in the coming months through the provision of Red Cross Hotel Entry Packs. These packs provide opportunity for empowerment, community information and some other extremely important activities supporting mental, physical and emotional well-being during quarantine.