Sara Sollis is brimming with pride at being able to play a part in the largest vaccination programme in British history.
Our Customer Engagement Team Leader has been volunteering every weekend, and during her annual leave, at the vaccination centre at Taunton Racecourse.
Sara was keen to be part of the monumental national effort to vaccinate the British population and bring an end to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sara was alerted to the volunteering opportunity via a twitter post by Spark Somerset, a charity which runs the county-wide volunteer service.
As we celebrate Volunteers’ Week, Sara said: “I wanted to be part of the solution and not the problem.
“I do a lot of volunteering in my village, but I felt compelled to be part of our vaccination programme given the suffering and pain this virus has caused.
“This is the first time that I have been able to volunteer for something that has national significance.
“For selfish reasons I had become fed up with being at home and not seeing people for weeks on end.
“I now get to see hundreds of people every time I volunteer. It has helped me learn a lot about the virus and I am now knowledgeable about the vaccine part of the conversation.
“I absolutely love it and look forward to every shift I do at the centre. It lifts me because I can see the benefit this will have for so many people.
“I get to meet so many types of people and everyone is so friendly.
“What I have found is that the centres attract a broad range of volunteers. Of all different ages, from those that are retired to chief executives although JVT has popped in yet.
“The staff who are getting paid to be there are really thankful to the volunteers that have signed up.
“And those that are being vaccinated bring in cake and chocolate as a thank you which always goes down well.”
While Sara is not trained to give the medical injections, she has been working as a marshal to help manage the queues, ensure masks are worn and hands are clean and ensure people wait 15 minutes following their injection for their own safety.
She also ensures the flow of people going to certain pods to have their injection is as smooth and straightforward as possible.
Sara added: “I have been really impressed with the whole operation. The centre at Taunton Racecourse usually vaccinates up to a 1,000 people in a day and has done as many as 1,500 people.
“Some of the older people arrive in tears as they are so relieved to be getting the vaccine.
“Once you start talking to them you realise some people have not been out of the house since last March and it really brings home the effect this has had on people.
“As restrictions ease, it is becoming more difficult to find volunteers as those on furlough are gradually returning to work which means a drop in volunteer numbers.
“It will be interesting to see what happens with the proposed boosters in the Autumn. I would certainly like to be part of helping with that.”
Elsewhere Sara volunteers as part of Stoke St Gregory Parish Council which has been pushing for some time to bring new housing to the village.
As a result, Stoke St Gregory will see 34 new homes built in the village - 40% are affordable – which will help younger people stay living in their local community.
Sara also helps with the refreshments for the village cricket team and was part of a community project to convert a pub into a community hub which includes a shop and café.