Volunteers use online forum to mind children of healthcare workers

Student teacher acts as childcare worker for nurse who is working on the front line

Ciara Devon: If you know in yourself that you need something more to do, then there are so many options out there”

Ciara Devon: If you know in yourself that you need something more to do, then there are so many options out there”

 

For student teacher Ciara Devon (26) the best way to play her part during the coronavirus pandemic was to volunteer as a childcare worker for a nurse who works on the front line.

The day that universities, schools and crèches closed due to coronavirus, she decided to reach out to the local community to see if there were any elderly or vulnerable people in need of assistance.

With help from an online forum she decided that offering childcare to healthcare workers was the best use of her skills. Now she is minding a nine-month-old baby boy three to four days a week so his mother can continue to treat patients.

“I just wouldn’t be able to sit at home knowing I could help someone. Working in the health service is such a thankless job,” she said. “There’s no way you can pay back these people for all they’re doing, but I just thought that this was my time to give something back, even if it’s just a small thing.”

Final-year medical student Shane Kelly, one of the organisers, says the volunteer idea has been borrowed from an example in Glasgow, Scotland, to help parents working in hospitals, GP clinics and care homes

Some 5,000 people signed up to the group’s Facebook page. Hundreds of families have already been helped in the last two weeks, though even he is unsure of the exact number now involved.

“It started as two separate groups of medical students and then another of teachers and childcare workers on Facebook. But the demand was rapidly exceeding what we are capable of, so we joined together.”

The organisers have now set up a website (covidchildcare.com) which seeks to bring together parents with volunteers. Once linked both sides decide themselves if they are well-matched.

“We used to individually match people but very quickly the demand outstripped our capacity,” Kelly said. “We’re not doing the connecting anymore, we’re a forum, so a lot of it comes down to the two [sides] involved.

Volunteer

Devon, who is currently writing her thesis for her Maynooth University geography degree, said minding the young baby was the only time she now leaves home in order to protect herself, her family and the family she is helping.

Not everyone can volunteer, she says: “I’m in a better position to help out because as a student teacher I have fewer classes I need to organise online work for.”

She says volunteering is rewarding.

“I really recommend getting involved. It allows you to have a purpose in some way, so you don’t get stuck in a rut. If you know in yourself that you need something more to do, then there are so many options out there. We won’t get through this if we all only look after ourselves.”