‘I’m not a person to sit at home to wait until this is over, says homeworker for The Personal Travel Agents at Co‑op Travel

Q. What has the lockdown been like for you workwise?
A. I have more than 25 years’ experience in travel but I only started with the Personal Travel Agents in October so I didn’t have that many bookings when the lockdown started. The majority of my clients were due to travel from the summer onwards, from June this year and into 2021. I did have customers abroad when the travel bans came into place and some were due to travel before May 1, so I worked around the clock to bring them back or transfer their holiday to a later date.

As soon as we went into lockdown, I immediately contacted clients. Some cancelled, while some are still trying to decide what to do. Enquiries have increased in the last couple of weeks – there is still some hesitation, but customers are booking classic family holidays for summer 2021, plus I’ve booked Christmas market trips to Switzerland and Edinburgh, and a group boating holiday for 2021.

Q. Given you joined the Personal Travel Agents at Co-operative Travel only recently, what have you been doing to keep business going?
A. I am trying to keep holiday offers on my Facebook page. I did a survey asking if people still wanted me to do that. And I am still around for advice and a chat with my clients even if they don’t want to book yet. I have kept in touch with clients on a weekly basis just so they know I’ve not disappeared off the face of the Earth.

“I’m one of a team of volunteers who help by shopping for people who can’t get out. We also collect pharmacy prescriptions, pet supplies and whatever else is needed.”

Q. Why did you decide to volunteer?
A. I cannot just sit around. I’m the type of person who always needs to be doing something. Once I’d done as much as I could for my clients, I knew I’d have time to devote to helping others as a volunteer. I wanted to use any spare time to serve my community in a different way. We’re all in this together.

Q. What voluntary work have you been doing?
A. I’m one of a team of volunteers who help by shopping for people who can’t get out. We also collect pharmacy prescriptions, pet supplies and whatever else is needed to drop on their doorsteps. I’m enjoying talking to new people on the phone and, from a safe distance, while queueing at the shops! The community spirit here in Belper, Derbyshire, is really heartwarming.

I have been running errands for elderly neighbours and those with disabilities as well as helping my own parents. I want to help people out because my own parents are over 70. Usually my mum would go out every morning and she is used to shopping daily; to ask her to write a list is impossible. That’s the same for lots of people. There is many a time when they just fancy something and would normally just nip to the shops but now can’t.

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Q. Have you helped out in any other way?
A. I have given people my number so they can contact me if they need anything. Some older people have asked me to help them get their phone bills paid; they’d normally pay over the counter and have never done it over the phone.

Q. Did you worry about putting yourself at risk?
A. I’ve not thought about that really. We have got gloves and face masks. When I get home I am washing and taking all the precautions. Every week is different; I am out every other day. It was busier at first. It has calmed down a bit as people have got their heads around it.

“Some older people have asked me to help them get their phone bills paid; they’d normally pay over the counter and have never done it over the phone.”

Q. What has the volunteering experience been like?
A. People have been really appreciative. But I don’t do it for that; I do it to feel useful. I am not a person to sit at home to wait until this is over. I like keeping busy. My son Sam is 19 and he has been driving me around. He is enjoying doing it with me.


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How did you get into voluntary work?

I put flyers through the doors of people in my local area to see if anyone needed shopping done or prescriptions collecting. Then I came across the Belper Covid-19 Mutual Aid Facebook page set up by local people to help others. It’s quite a close-knit community and a lot of people know each other.

“A few years ago I took time out of travel and I was a carer in the community, and then I set up my own catering business, before I came back to travel.”

One positive of this situation is people are being kinder to each other and the community has really come together. There are long queues at the supermarkets and the post office, but people have been in good spirits.

A few years ago I took time out of travel and I was a carer in the community, and then I set up my own catering business, before I came back to travel. I have always liked looking after people. It’s a shame I don’t have my catering van any more!

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