An army of volunteers are playing a leading role in the fight back against coronavirus in North Wales.
The region’s largest ever vaccination programme continues to go from strength to strength, with thousands of people from the NHS, trade unions, local authorities, the emergency services and the military involved in the mammoth roll-out.
They are being supported by hundreds of volunteers who gift their time to ensure that it is delivered as quickly and as effectively as possible.
In North Wales’ three Mass Vaccination Centres alone, more than 200 volunteers have collectively given over 6,500 hours to the lifesaving programme.
People are also generously gifting their time to support the vaccination rollout in some of North Wales’ 98 GP practices.
Here are just some of the kind-hearted volunteers involved in helping to bring the pandemic to an end.
Ray Barnett – Ysbyty Enfys Llandudno
Retired firefighter Ray Barnett has been volunteering at Ysbyty Enfys Llandudno since the beginning of December. He is one of 60 volunteers supporting North Wales’ largest Mass Vaccination Centre.
“Like all other volunteers I’m a public spirited type of person and I realise that the only way we are going to get out of this pandemic is by the vaccine,” he explained.
“The NHS are the key skilled staff so anything we can do to lighten their load helps, and that way we’re all going to hopefully get out of this by the end of the year.
“We’ve had a brilliant reception from the public who can’t believe how well organised it is. They appreciate that everything possible is being done to keep them safe.
“Its immensely rewarding and I see it as my last great adventure. If nothing else this has made people realise how valuable the NHS is. Its rewarding to do something worthwhile and support people that I have huge respect for.
“As volunteers we know that we’re doing our bit to help this all come to an end.”
Gwyn Parry Jones – Ysbyty Enfys Bangor
At Ysbyty Enfys Bangor, Gwyn Parry Jones is one of around 50 volunteers supporting the vaccination effort.
Mr Jones, from Pontrug near Caernarfon, was inspired to get involved to support one of his daughters, who is working as a nurse on the COVID-19 frontline at Ysbyty Gwynedd.
“I volunteered because I thought it was the right thing to do. I’ve got one daughter who’s a nurse at Ysbyty Gwynedd so I wanted to do my bit,” he said.
“I’m chuffed to be playing my part and we’ve had such a good reception from the public, especially when people are leaving the building. They’re very grateful.”
Up until retirement two years ago, Mr Jones worked as a skipper on one of Bangor University’s small research vessels. In recent weeks he’s been putting his navigation skills to good use by helping up to 800 people a day through Gwynedd and Anglesey’s largest vaccination centre.
“This is very different work and it’s a lot drier” he joked. “Every shift is about four or five hours and we rotate positions every hour. There’s a meet and greet station, reception, and people inside the vaccination hall.”
Fiona Nicholson – Ysbyty Enfys Bangor
Fiona Nicholson moved to Llanberis from the south east of England two years ago and says volunteering is an important way to support the local community.
“I run a guest house in Llanberis and obviously we’re shut at the moment so I wanted to make use of my time effectively in order to support the local community,” she said.
“It gets you up it gets you out and it gets you seeing people. You get such good feedback from people coming in for their vaccine.
“It was really challenging with the cold weather of the last few weeks and we were wrapped up in coats, gloves and scarves. It was great to be able to help get older, vulnerable patients out from the cold quickly.”
Aberglaslyn Mountain Rescue Team
Volunteers from Aberglaslyn Mountain Rescue Team are well used to gifting their time to provide a lifesaving service to the local community.
So when a Local Vaccination Centre was set up at short notice at Porthmadog Leisure Centre in February, the team’s community minded members were only too happy to volunteer.
Drew Leech from Aberglaslyn Mountain Rescue Team said: “We were approached by local GP Dr Eilir Hughes at short notice and the team didn’t hesitate to say yes. We’re well known in the local community and we just wanted to help out. On the day we helped with the marshalling of vehicles and making sure that everything went smoothly. We were very proud to have done our bit to support the local community with the vaccination programme and we look forward to helping out again in future.”
Susan Ridings – Ysbyty Enfys Deeside
Susan Ridings from Gwernaffield is one of nearly 500 people recruited from a 30-mile radius of Wrexham to take part in an ongoing COVID-19 vaccine trial.
But as well as helping to develop further vaccines that will lead Wales out of the pandemic, Susan is also one of more than 90 volunteers who regularly support Ysbyty Enfys Deeside.
She said: “It was just after Christmas when I appreciated there would be a huge number of people needed to support the vaccination programme and I just couldn’t sit at home knowing that I could be doing something useful.
“Some people really haven’t been out of the house since last March. Some of them have been shielding and its their first trip out, so they can be quite nervous because of that.
“We reassure them that there are social distancing and infection prevention measures in place. Some people are also nervous about having the vaccine so I relay my own family’s experiences. My mum is 90 and she was perfectly well after having it.”
Shelagh Roberts – Ysbyty Enfys Deeside
Retired nurse Shelagh Roberts thought her lifesaving days were over when she left Wrexham Maelor Hospital more than ten years ago.
She’s been volunteering at Ysbyty Enfys Deeside to support her former colleagues and the wider community since the beginning of January.
“I just think its important to do something to help. I wanted to be involved and I wanted to give something back,” she said.
“I felt that we’ve got to just hit this and do something so I was really glad to have the opportunity.
“People are so grateful and its good to feel part of the team. Everybody who works here shows their gratitude and they don’t put on you. Its nice to feel part of something so big."
The COVID-19 vaccination volunteering schemes are being funded by the North Wales NHS charity, Awyr Las, thanks to generous donations from local people and because of NHS Charities Together’s COVID-19 Appeal.
To find out more about this important work visit the Awyr Las website.
If you’re interested in volunteering to support the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in North Wales, please email email@example.com.