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Among the many volunteers who are keeping this service running is Jean Archbold. She’s one of hundreds of Meals on Wheels volunteers in Auckland who tirelessly offer their precious time and service to the community.
Jean has been supporting New Zealand Red Cross for more than 15 years, but says that she has known about Meals on Wheels since she was young - when her mum was a Meals on Wheels volunteer.
“I remember back when I was still a child, there was this school holiday when I joined my mum in her deliveries,” Jean recalls.
When the chance came for Jean to follow in her mother’s footsteps and help out, she says she thought immediately: “I have the free time, and I just don’t see any reason why I couldn’t give back.”
For 15 years since that initial thought, Jean has been helping to deliver meals once every two weeks. There were even times when she would take up an extra run to help cover shifts when the team was short on drivers.
With COVID-19 Alert Level 4 restrictions in place across the country, Meals on Wheels Programme Coordinator Moana Tangimetua quickly found the shortage of drivers become much more apparent. Many of the volunteers were 70 years or older, meaning that it was safest for them to stay home and stand down. In such a challenging time, Moana truly appreciates volunteers like Jean who stepped up to keep the service running.
“Jean is a godsend,” Moana shares. “And I say this because she put her hands up to help on the day New Zealand was told that we were going into lockdown.”
On day seven of the nationwide lockdown, Jean gladly took on two consecutive Meals on Wheels deliveries in Auckland, ensuring that no one went without a meal.
“I continue volunteering because I can do it. I know that the team was desperately short on drivers after it was decided that people over 70 years old and those who are immuno-compromised should stay at home. I am in the position to continue doing what I do, so I’m just happy to do it,” Jean explains.
To keep herself and the recipients of the meals she delivers safe, Jean observes the hygiene and physical distancing measures in accordance to Ministry of Health guidance.
“One key change in the way I do delivery now is keeping distance. After I knock, I make sure I stand back far enough as soon as I see them coming.”
“Before, I could go inside some of the houses to put the meal on the kitchen bench, but now I make sure to keep my distance.”
As someone on the front line continuing this essential work, Jean has seen for herself the significance of keeping the Meals on Wheels service running with the help of volunteers like her.
“The role volunteers like me play, is to help people we reach feed themselves in an adequate way," Jean explains. "A lot of them are less able, and my role is to make sure that they can have a decent meal every day.”
“Some of the people we serve don’t see many people during the day, so I’d also like to think that me saying ‘hi’ and having a short chat with them somehow contributes to making their day brighter.”