COVID-19 Champions - Inese's story
The COVID-19 Community Champions programme supports residents from under-represented groups who may be most at risk of COVID-19.
As part of the programme, 14 organisations are working with their communities to increase vaccination uptake and reduce the impact of the virus.
One of these organisations is Vera Group, a women’s empowerment group based in Walsall. Established two years ago, the group empower women from different European countries by promoting confidence and self-esteem and offering non-judgmental support and advocacy. Vera Group have also delivered ESOL classes, supporting community members to improve their English skills and feel part of the community they live in.
Under the COVID-19 Community Champions programme, they have offered face-to-face and online support, communicated information about COVID-19 in different languages and helped community members with booking vaccinations and registering with a GP.
They have also recruited volunteers from across Walsall to get involved, develop their skills and most of all make a difference. One of the volunteers is Inese, who shares her experience as a champion.
My name is Inese and my husband’s name is Konstantins. We are both 34 years old and we live near Bloxwich.
I used to attend Vera Group’s ESOL lessons, which helped me a lot with speaking comfortably in English. During those lessons, we would also often discuss the recent COVID-19 news and updates. I learnt how so many people were still unaware of a lot of the recent information on the virus, especially regarding vaccinations. I was really inspired to help others and once I heard that I could volunteer as a COVID-19 Community Champion, I immediately knew this was something I wanted to do. I also shared this with my husband and he was very enthusiastic to get involved as well. Therefore, we both became COVID-19 Champions.
One of the reasons I love doing this is because of how many new people I get to meet. It really helps me to learn more about the members of my community and improve my English while doing so. My favourite thing about being a COVID-19 Champion is knowing I’ve helped the community and changed people’s lives for the better.
One of my main roles as a COVID-19 Champion is speaking to other members of my community and spreading awareness of the virus. A lot of people don’t actually keep up to date with what’s going on and they don’t know all the information about COVID-19, so it’s my job to ensure everyone is aware of what is currently happening. As well as that, I gather people’s opinions on the vaccine and encourage as many of them as I can to get vaccinated, by informing them of the process and how it could benefit them.
When talking to members of the community, I often come across people who are sceptical, or even against the vaccine altogether. An example of this was a couple of families I had spoken to, who were unsure about whether they should get vaccinated. When speaking to them, I had the chance to share my own story and how I got the vaccine. I reassured them how easy it was to get it and the positive outcome it had for me. My story had inspired them, and with my support in the whole process, they had successfully gone through with their vaccinations.
Being a community champion means I get to help the community and make it a happier and safer place for everyone. I love that I had the opportunity to attend ESOL classes with Vera Group, as I would not be able to do what I do today without them. Before the classes, I barely had any confidence when speaking to others in English and struggled to maintain conversations. Now, communicating with others is no longer a stressful experience and I do it with ease. Of course, I still have more to learn, which is why being a COVID-19 Champion is so great. By speaking to different members of the community every day, not only do I learn more about other people living in my area, but I also build my own confidence.
For those who want to volunteer and help raise awareness of COVID-19, I would definitely recommend others to just go for it and be confident when doing so. If you love helping people, then volunteering to help your community is definitely the right choice. It is important that you have done all your research before you speak to others and ensure the information you are spreading is correct. Finally, one of the most important things is to make sure you remain open-minded and respect everyone’s opinions, even if they do not match your own.
If you are aged 18+, living or working in Walsall and you would like to find out more or be part of the Community Champions programme, visit the Walsall for All website: https://www.walsallforall.co.uk/community-champions
For further details about the COVID-19 vaccination and where to get your first or second dose, visit the Walsall Council website: http://go.walsall.gov.uk/covid-19_information/covid-19_vaccination_information