News - 22nd July 2020

Keeping the parkrun volunteer spirit going

Carina Smit ED

Although parkrun remains on hold for now, many of our incredible volunteers have been finding other ways to use their time to help their communities, from supporting elderly neighbours to food drives for the homeless.


Carina Smit is a Co-Event Director at Root 44 parkrun in Stellenbosch, and she shares how she has continued to give back during lockdown:


When parkrun was suspended in March, it came as a huge shock to me. Somehow up to then, the COVID-19 pandemic felt almost surreal to me. As if it was something that would not come so close to home.


Never in my wildest dreams did I think that parkrun would be suspended and that I would do my last parkrun at Strand beach parkrun on 14 March with my mom and sister. The following Monday, lectures at Stellenbosch University were suspended at 12:00 noon and the recess started a few days earlier than planned.


I work in the Economics department as postgraduate administrator and first-year Economics lecturer and all of a sudden my very organised life felt like it was turning into chaos. The announcement of the state of disaster and then the lockdown, caused a lot of stress and uncertainty.


I was looking for something to keep my mind busy with (besides work), to help me cope better with the stressful situation we all of a sudden found ourselves in, and a way to help out. A very good friend shared a post from Mediclinic in which they advertised their volunteer programme started as part of their disaster management plan.


The idea of this programme was to provide support to the nurses with non-clinical tasks so that they could focus on their clinical tasks to support patients. I applied, and soon after, I received an email from the patient experience manager to invite me to an orientation day.


We were a group of 6 volunteers that attended on that specific day and we received such useful information during this session – this definitely helped to ease a lot of my initial fears of the pandemic.


During the afternoon we visited each of the different spaces in the hospital where volunteers could assist (the kitchen, laundry, pharmacy, technical department, portering, etc.)   I now help in the medical ward and also assist at the main entrance of the hospital with the screening of everyone that comes into the hospital.


The hospital is incredibly strict with health and safety protocols. During the orientation they taught us that hand hygiene and social distancing are absolute key in preventing the spread of the disease.


We also practiced the handwashing protocol and how to safely put on and take off personal protective equipment (PPE). The safety of patients and colleagues remain the top priority at all times.


I have such admiration for the nurses who work tirelessly every day to save patients’ lives and to help them recover so that they can go back home to their loved ones.


Very early on I realised that to be a patient in hospital during the pandemic can become extremely lonesome, since no-one is allowed to have visitors. One Sunday I spent almost an hour keeping a lady company who was just feeling incredibly lonely and was really missing her family. This was incredibly special.


This morning’s tasks took me all over the hospital and I almost made my step goal – great news for any parkrunner. I thoroughly enjoy being involved and really look forward to my volunteer time at the hospital!


It is also an incredible honour to interact with the nurses and to help them in ways that sometimes feel so small and insignificant to me, but that they appreciate so much and are so grateful for. I feel so blessed to be involved!


Carina Smit

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