This Volunteers Week, we’ve spent 5 minutes catching up with one of our Relationship Managers, Leanne Brown. Leanne looks after several of our areas in the North of England and has been a part of the team here at Badminton England for several years. During these times, she has been volunteering some of her time to help those who need it most in her local community as an NHS volunteer. We took some time to chat about her experience so far and her take on what has been a different approach to volunteering than she’s used to!

So Leanne, we know you were once a very keen badminton player yourself – how long have you been involved with badminton?

20 years! I started playing at 10 years old at my local junior club, Swifts Junior Badminton Club, before I represented Surrey County. I competed in the junior circuits for a number of years and won an U17 national tournament to become a graded junior singles player. My love of the game continued all the way through University, captaining the Chichester University Badminton Team and then after graduation I played at a local senior club too so it’s always been a huge part of my life. Along the way, I’ve completed coaching qualifications and my involvement with Badminton England actually began in a volunteering capacity as Team England Para-Badminton Coordinator in 2012. Now, I’ve turned my love of the sport into my career! I’ve now been a Relationship Manager (covering Cheshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire) at Badminton England since 2017 and I am also a part of Badminton England’s tutor and assessor workforce, delivering Coach Education courses. So to say I’ve been involved in badminton in just about every way possible over a very long time is an understatement!

You’ve been working for Badminton England alongside volunteering for the NHS during this difficult time. Can you tell us a little bit more about what that involves and what encouraged you to do this?

I’m part of the COVID-19 Team with my local volunteering organisation, AVOW, collecting prescriptions and dropping off medication to those who are particularly vulnerable or unable to do so themselves safely. It also occasionally involves picking up and dropping off food deliveries to those self-isolating or shielding within my local community. As far as my motivations, I think these largely stem from my previous positive volunteering experiences. I’ve been involved in various volunteering roles previously, unsurprisingly in a sport capacity, such as at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games as a Games Maker. But being able to give back and make a real difference by helping people who need it most is a really rewarding feeling. This current situation can be really isolating – I’ve experienced this first hand with my family living many miles away down south. It’s a really difficult time for everyone in different ways. I feel I’ve helped by making it that a little bit easier for someone by bringing some consistency and reassurance when everything else is so up in the air. I’ve even managed to find some sport cross over with one of my regular visits to a lovely lady who’s relative works for Sport England!

What have you found most rewarding about your experiences?

Definitely the appreciation from those I have met. For many people I speak to, it’s not just about the practicality of having their medication or their weekly food delivery dropped off – It’s the social interaction that means the most. I could be the only face-to-face contact they’ve had outside their household that week, so I’m more than happy to stand on the end of their driveway and have a chat with them (from 2 metres away!). It’s given me a completely different perspective and much better understanding of the impact that this pandemic is having on those who are most vulnerable and has actually been great for my own mindset. Getting out of the house and interacting with those who’s paths wouldn’t usually cross with mine otherwise has been really rewarding.

What advice do you have for anyone who might be looking to volunteer but isn’t sure where to look or how they can get involved?

If you’re interested in volunteering, definitely see what opportunities are available nationally or locally by searching online or by contacting any organisation you come across directly. They might be able to offer you some more information on roles, what they require and how you can best help as you may be able to offer specific skills that many organisations are looking for. Most roles require a short application form or at a minimum, an express of interest for someone to get back to you to assist you in your search further. There are so many different ways to get involved that will really have a positive impact on someone’s life during this time. The NHS and key workers have been, as always, doing an incredible job for the nation and it’s great to play a part however small that may be. I’d strongly recommend it to anyone!

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