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Antonio Neves is a first-year medical student and has been volunteering online with Age UK: Kensington and Chelsea. Have a read through his story below to see what it’s like volunteering as a medical during COVID-19, and how he is helping his community in such uncertain times. 

Tell us a little about your volunteering

Every week I help conduct two online Spanish classes through Zoom, one for beginners and one at an intermediate level. These classes take about one hour each, and it takes me some additional time to prepare some exercises and texts for them to do and read. I volunteer at Age UK: Kensington and Chelsea, and work with about 12 seniors every class, although there is always some class skipping!

How did you find out about the role?

One day I checked out the Students’ Union UCL Volunteering Service website and saw this opportunity. After a couple of days and an email exchange, I started volunteering.

Why did you want to become a volunteer?

I wanted to do something productive with the free time I have had because of COVID-19. I felt like volunteering was a way of both improving my people skills and helping someone along the way.

What difference do you feel you’ve made by volunteering?

My students have told me that they look forward to the Spanish classes every week. Having their friends and social opportunities taken away by the virus can be deeply scarring, and by creating a time and place where they get to interact with their friends and learn something along the way, I feel like I get to alleviate that burden.

What impact has volunteering had on you?

Before volunteering I was disillusioned with my quarantine situation as I have been in Spain´s two-month lockdown since its beginning. But now volunteering gives me a reason to wake up earlier, and it trains my Spanish knowledge and prepares me for my interactions with patients in my future career.

What’s the best thing about volunteering?

 The warm feeling you get when you make someone smile and feel like you have improved their day.

And the most challenging? How did you overcome the challenges?

It is often challenging for me to be clear whilst speaking as English is not my first language and I tend to mumble when I talk, being understood is sometimes hard. I try to face these problems by focussing on calming myself before facing this challenge and remembering the strategies that have helped me to overcome them before.

I felt like volunteering was a way of both improving my people skills and helping someone along the way.

Tell us about something memorable that’s happened to you whilst volunteering

One of the ladies that attends every Thursday, and sometimes finds the class a bit challenging, responded to a homework task of writing a physical description of a celebrity by choosing to instead make a description of me! This included references to my messy hair and large eyebrows which I found hilarious.

Would you recommend volunteering? If so, why?

I would recommend volunteering especially whilst corona is still affecting our lives. It gives the motivation to build an organised timetable, with the benefit of improving your skills and making other people happy.

How has COVID-19 impacted your volunteering and how has it changed what you do?

COVID-19 has made me have to abandon the volunteering I did, as I moved back to Madrid. But the quarantine gave me the drive to sign up for this new opportunity and begin this process that I am absolutely loving.

If you want to make a difference through volunteering like Antonio, browse the opportunities on our volunteering directory to see what you can get involved in.