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How the coronavirus pandemic helped transform us into a nation of volunteers

30 May 2020

Saturday 30 May 2020

Amid the global coronavirus pandemic, charities across the country say thank you to a nation of volunteers.

This week (1-7 June) marks Volunteers’ Week – an annual celebration of those who give up their time to help their communities and country. This year there are more people to thank than ever before.

The global coronavirus pandemic has seen people reach out to neighbours in need on an extraordinary scale. When the NHS put out a call for volunteers, over 750,000 people responded - three times the original target. 

Millions of people are now volunteering their time and energy to deliver food, to act as a friend to someone in isolation, and to fundraise for charity through ​with virtual sporting challenges taking off.

Last month, thousands of people organised fundraising sporting events in their homes as part of the ‘2.6 Challenge’, following the cancellation of major sporting events, including the London Marathon, due to lockdown. 

“I, like many others, was incredibly moved by the fundraising efforts of Sargent Tom Moore. By walking around his garden, he inspired the nation to help him raise over £32 million for charity,” said Ellen Martin, 23, an intern from Birmingham.

“After seeing Tom Moore’s story, I decided I would not let this time go to waste, and instead spin the situation in a new, positive light. 

“I started volunteering at my local food bank charity, collecting food from shops that is near to its use by date, and delivering it to families in the community. I also learnt how to knit with my mum, and together we knitted baby hats, booties, teddies and blankets for local hospitals.”

Volunteers are not just reaching out to vulnerable people here in the UK. There have also been phenomenal efforts to help with the global coronavirus response.

Marie Pennell, a Buckinghamshire nurse, recently ran a half-marathon to fundraise for health workers overseas. Marie managed to finish her 13-mile challenge in two hours and six minutes and raised nearly £2,000 for the international development charity, CAFOD. 

“I’m fortunate to work for the NHS and have seen it working at its best during this difficult time,” explained Marie. “There are areas that are not so fortunate and their weak healthcare systems are overwhelmed. I wanted to do my part to help.”

Volunteering is the backbone of UK Charity CAFOD. Its director Christine Allen said: 

“During the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen some amazing feats of volunteering to support the coronavirus response both here and overseas – and people of faith have been some of the unsung heroes.” 

“During this time of crisis, I’ve seen so many people, from all faiths and none, providing care and support not only for our neighbours that live next door, but our neighbours from all over the world.

“They are in every corner of the country and will often have been volunteering before but in the last few months they have really stepped up – providing a much-needed light in this dark time.”

“People in the UK are looking out for their neighbours, but they are also standing in solidarity.

“Over the past few months, here at CAFOD, we have seen our numbers of volunteers and the time they are willing to give increase – equating to over 100,000 extra hours volunteered to help some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.”

“Through our global church networks, we have been able to support hundreds of local organisations and experts to provide life-saving and life-changing care in their communities.

“And, in countries where there isn’t a social safety net, the faith communities provide essential health and education services as well as livelihoods and human rights support.”

Find out more about CAFOD’s work at


For further information and photos please contact: Elouise Hobbs,, Mobile: +44 (0)7954 077426 | Landline: + 44 (0) 2920 344 882 Or, CAFOD’s 24-hour media hotline on +44 (0)7919 301 429        

  1. Pictures attached: Ellen Martin knitting items for local maternity wards with her mother in Birmingham, Marie Pennell in her nurses’ uniform, Marie during her half marathon challenge.   

  2. CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and part of Caritas International. Across the world we bring hope and compassion to poor communities, standing side by side with them to end poverty and injustice. Because we work through the local Church, we can reach people and places that others can’t.

  3. CAFOD has 6,305 volunteers across England and Wales – the equivalent of 8,547 individuals split across 15 volunteering roles. An average of 27,862 hours are volunteered each month, or 334,344 over the course of a year – 100,000 more hours than last year. The equivalent of £2.9million worth of volunteering time is calculated as if everyone was paid the living wage of £8.75 per hour. Further information can be found ​in the annual report.