One of the most heartening things to come from the covid-19 outbreak has been the collaborative approach adopted across all our services, those locally in Aberdeen and the surrounding areas.
When lockdown happened, many of the other local services were unable to function as they normally would, leaving staff members with reduced workload and responsibility. While they experienced a reduction in workload, the care sector was struggling to cope under the new burdens placed.
Sport Aberdeen was one such service and, as their staff were unable to operate normally, they redeployed some of their staff to help where it was most needed, commenting, “Volunteers are the lifeblood of Sport Aberdeen and without them we would not be able to carry out a lot of the work within local communities that we do. We are delighted that many of our staff have seized the opportunity to take up volunteer work while our venues are closed, working with organisations such as Bon Accord Care to assist wherever they can during this challenging time.”
With it being volunteers’ week we wanted to celebrate and highlight the work of our amazing volunteers as they all provide such essential support at this time. One name kept popping up again and again in our search.
Step forward Tom Lambert.
Tom is Sport Aberdeen’s Development Officer for Community Sport. As part of his role he is responsible for Community Sport Hubs, a national initiative bringing together sport clubs and key local partners who want to develop and grow the sporting offering in the community. Within the role he regularly engages with people in the local community and enjoys speaking to people from a variety of backgrounds.
For the past ten weeks Tom has been volunteering on Mondays and Fridays at Fergus House, one of our residential care homes in Dyce.
His normal routine involves cleaning in the morning and activities in the afternoon. He supports the team and resident group by ensuring that the high touch contact areas are cleansed regularly, promoting a clean, safe environment.
In the afternoons he has helped residents to keep contact with their loved ones, through video calling, and sharing various emotions from tears to laughter. Several residents have also enjoyed some exercise with the help of Tom, going for walks along the nearby riverside, being out in the community, speaking with others and seeing the local wildlife.
Going for a walk seems such a simple thing to do, however it means a great deal to the residents, enhancing their physical and mental wellbeing. He also engages residents in some tabletop games and gets beat every time, especially at dominoes.
Heather Napier, manager at Fergus House said: “Tom is a great asset to Fergus House, making a valuable contribution to the care and wellbeing of the residents, and has built a great working relationship with staff. He's always willing to help and can turn his hand to practically anything, no task is too small. On behalf of the residents and staff, thank you so much Tom.”
We caught up with Tom on his morning break to ask him some questions about his time with us so far;
BAC: So, Tom, why did you decide to volunteer your services?
Tom: I just wanted to do my bit. I live locally and I wanted to give something back to my community. With my own role being customer facing, I was unable to continue under the lockdown regulations and I wanted to find something I could knuckle down to.
BAC: You’ve been here since the beginning of April and, with the support of Sport Aberdeen, you’re happy to continue volunteering as long as possible before returning to your own role. What do you find most rewarding?
Tom: It’s the little things. So many of the things we all take for granted can make a huge difference to the people we are caring for. While cleaning in the morning I’ll often chat away to people and they appear to enjoy speaking and reminiscing about things; they have unbelievable character, are quick witted and full of great banter. I have sat and read the newspaper for one man with a love of sport and local news, and sometimes a simple smile can have a big impact.
I like to take some of them for a walk along the river. One gentleman, really looks forward to our walks and we’ve recently encountered a family of herons. We sit and chat and I can tell he looks forward to my company, which makes it so worthwhile. The staff are so busy right now it’s difficult for them to perform these little tasks as often and I’m happy that I can help.
BAC: You seem to be enjoying the experience, your answers are full of enthusiasm and you really appear to find it fulfilling. What do you feel you have learned so far?
Tom: I’ve learned more about what happens in care homes. I’d really no idea, the last time I visited a relative in one I would’ve only been 12 or 13. I can see the amount of effort and hard work that goes in to ensure everyone is safe and well looked after. All the staff here go above and beyond what is required of them. I don’t think I could do what they do. One other thing I’ve learned is how to do manicures. One lady asked me if I’d paint her nails and despite my initial apprehension, I gave it a go. It turned out better than I thought it would, but I certainly won’t be planning a career change anytime soon!
BAC: All the staff have been saying how pleased they are with your contribution. The residents look forward to your shifts and we’re glad you’re continuing to volunteer with us when you can. Would you recommend volunteering to others?
Tom: Definitely. I recruit volunteers as part of my day job, and I thought there’s no reason why I wouldn’t volunteer myself when I had the opportunity. If you’re in a position where you’re able to, then I’d say to go for it! The communication here is second to none with regular checks and systems in place that protect everyone. The people you encounter are wonderful and the feeling you get when you make someone smile is immeasurable.
Last week was mental health awareness week with the theme being kindness. Kindness matters and it is obvious that the same theme has threaded its way into volunteer’s week where the kindness and support provided by our volunteers is invaluable.
This week is volunteer’s week, our chance to say thank you to those who offer their time to support others without the need for any financial reward. Thank you to all the Tom Lamberts out there.