Volunteer stories: Katie
My name is Katie , and I’ve just taken a couple of days off work to help in the Care4Calais Manchester warehouse after seeing their Facebook post about needing support.
I’m an occupational therapist at a hospital here in Manchester, and I’ve worked with many soldiers who’ve been injured in Afghanistan. That makes this a subject close to my heart, and I feel a real emotional connection to the crisis.
I’ve also been a part of the mental health team supporting veterans. Many of the soldiers I help have teammates in Afghanistan as well as close friends they made on their tours of duty. Watching the news about what’s happening there is traumatic for them in so many ways.
I wanted to do my bit to help, and to make the Afghan people who have kept our forces safe for so many years feel safe in the UK. And so here I am, on a sweltering hot day sweating away in a warehouse filled with strangers. It’s been a physically demanding job, I must say. But I did volunteer for it.
After a briefing, we rushed over to another store to collect some more donations. We met a van there, and eight of us, all complete strangers, loaded it up. It was hot hot hot, and there was zero space.
As we were cramming bags into the van, some of the bags were so flimsy that they burst open and shoes flew everywhere. It could have seemed like a problem, but we all laughed. Eight complete strangers finding things to laugh about in a strange, dire situation; that’s what team work is.
That’s what helping people is.
I felt better at the end of the day than when I arrived. You get a huge sense of satisfaction from working through a jumbled heap of donations and turning it into a perfectly-stacked pile of boxes ready to be delivered.
It really is remarkable how much you can achieve in a couple of hours. Donations of money are great, but what they really need right now is people to help with the work.
Everyone can do something. There’s this one guy who comes in his lunch hour just to take the rubbish away – and it’s invaluable.
My favourite movement came yesterday, when we loaded a van with dozens of carefully-packed boxes of things for women, men and children in London – we’re helping more than Manchester now. Watching it set off for the motorway, headed towards all the people it was going to help, was an emotional moment.
This whole operation is amazing, an incredible thing to be a part of. It’s all so well organised and welcoming. True, you might feel a little bit daunted when you walk in, as there’s a lot of information given to you in the briefing. But after an hour you become the expert helping the next person walking in.
We’re all learning from each other, and together we make it work.