“I couldn’t sit and do nothing.”

It was the 6th April – my first day of being on furlough from my customer services job – and I remember thinking, what am I going to do now? I couldn’t sit and do nothing, it’s just not me, and now I had time to help others.

I saw an appeal from the newly-formed Ardwick and Longsight Covid Mutual Aid Group. They were setting up a helpline and asking for volunteers. Supporting people on the phone is part of my day job so I thought I’d be suited to that.

Two weeks later I was taking calls from people in urgent need of food. I was thinking, this is someone’s grandfather, sister or mother and I would hope that anyone would do the same for mine.

Jenna: “My first role as volunteer was helping residents on the helpline.”

When I wasn’t taking calls I was helping out with the food inventory and deliveries. I was nervous at first: this was my first ever volunteering role and we were in the middle of a pandemic. But everyone was supportive; carrying out their roles safely and staying light hearted.

There were tears in my eyes the first time I delivered a food parcel.

You could see how much it meant. Having enough to eat is something I’ve always taken for granted. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve now delivered food parcels and hot food to, but still remember a few faces and how happy they have been to receive the food.

“I’ve lost count of the number of food parcels I’ve now helped to deliver.”

I’d never tweeted, blogged or created a website before but ended up looking after the social media for the Mutual Aid Group. It’s been great to share positive stories about the projects we’ve done to help lift the spirits.

With the help of many amazing volunteers, we’ve co-ordinated special Eid gift parcels; run a ‘Caring for our Community’ campaign as part of volunteer week; and, more recently, launched the ‘Find me a Home’ project where we collect unused items such as digital devices or fitness equipment and deliver them those in need. We’re now focusing on supporting families with kids over the summer.

‘Cupcake Surprise’ week put a smile on people’s faces.

Volunteering for the Mutual Aid Group has totally opened my eyes.

I’ve learnt so much about how communities are struggling with isolation and poverty. It’s made me want to learn more and encourage others to get involved.

Along the way I’ve met a lot of inspiring people: councillors, NHS staff, health and community workers, women’s aid groups, churches, charities, funders and various volunteers and organisation members who are driven to support and improve the lives of others.

We’ve helped so many people from those living alone to large families with complex needs, all from different cultural backgrounds and situations. It’s been truly amazing to be part of the Group’s journey with all the wonderful people that make it so special.

Jenna says: “It’s been brilliant to see first hand how ARMR Store in Brunswick and West Gorton Community Centre (above) have transformed part of their spaces into emergency food banks.”

So being on furlough hasn’t meant that life stopped for me. When I reflect on the last four months it gives me a warm feeling inside that I’ve been part of something special as the world was falling apart. I can also see there is so much more to do and I feel committed to this group and community now. My heart is completely in it and I will continue to support in any way I can for as long as I can.

Jenna’s commitment to her first ever volunteering role has earned her a special letter of appreciation from the Lord Lieutenant of Manchester.