I've been volunteering with Walsall BME since January 2017. It offers a number of services, but I mainly volunteered in the food-bank a few hours each week. Walsall is a town neighbouring Birmingham, that has been hit hard by austerity, and so unfortunately the need for food-banks has increased, so too the people requiring food handouts.
Due to Coronavirus, Walsall BME was forced to close, with the organisers providing meals directly to rough sleepers at the hotels where they were temporarily housed.
With the spare time that I have since university was forced to close, myself and a couple other medical students from different universities decided to set up a local Walsall 'National Health Supporters' group, called 'Walsall Healthcare Helping Hands'.
The aim of the group was to provide assistance to Walsall NHS staff during the COVID crisis as a thank you, with activities such as childminding and grocery shopping being made available to them.
My role was varied, ranging from contacting local NHS trusts to inform them of our free support, and to also publicise it via local media outlets.
The crux of my work however, was to spear-head a campaign of assembling care-packages for distribution to community nurses. The packages consisted of essentials such as toiletries, snacks and the occasional card written by the local public. The response from the Walsall community was overwhelming, and we managed to donate about 19 to 20 of these large packages, in addition to over £40 to the local Manor Hospital.
The reason why I decided to help the NHS is because of personal experiences with them. I would not be alive if not for their wonderful work in treating my severe illness as a child, and for that I owe them everything.
I've also worked for the NHS for 2 years. Having worked in the Haematology & Blood Transfusion Laboratory at the Birmingham Children's Hospital has given me a first-hand insight into how diligent, hard-working and compassionate the staff are.
I and I'm sure many others also feel that the NHS is the best thing about this country, and so when the opportunity arises to help out, there will always be people to answer that call.
What I have learnt from this experience is that despite the country being fractured recently, it has mainly come together during this pandemic, as shown by all kinds of people with different backgrounds contributing in various ways. And it really resonated with what the late MP Jo Cox stated, that 'We are far more united than the things that divide us'.
I've also been overwhelmed by the generosity of people, the majority of whom were not well-off but still donated great amounts regardless of their circumstances. It's these simple acts of kindness which help us as a people weather the storm.
After my exams, I was also fortunate to be reemployed by the Birmingham Children's Hospital, but this time working in a COVID-19 laboratory (paid, non-voluntary). As a medical student, any hospital experience is valuable and so I'm incredibly grateful to have been afforded this opportunity.