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The 94-year-old monarch took part in a poignant video call with members of the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) and Camilla, who is the proud president of the association. During the chat, the Queen, who is self-isolating at Windsor Castle, praised the “wonderful work” carried out by volunteers who stepped up to the plate over the past 12 months to support the most vulnerable in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Queen, who has been the patron of the RVS for seven decades, told volunteers: “Thank you very much indeed, very interesting to hear what you (have) been doing, I think it’s wonderful work and I do thank everybody for, and all the others too, who have been volunteering it’s been a great, great help over this very difficult year.”
Camilla, calling from Clarence House, joined in the praises, saying: “Thank you all very much for all you’ve done throughout the year, throughout the pandemic.
“We couldn’t have done it without you.”
The senior royals heard the experiences of a few volunteers, including retired police officer Tracy Clarke.
The Queen and Camilla took part in a video call to mark the first anniversary of the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme
The Queen has been the patron of the RVS for seven decades
The former officer told the Queen and Camilla about her main duties at the RVS Gateshead Home Library Service – which include delivering books to isolated people.
The Queen quipped: “Rather different work from the police I should think.”
She went on to say: “Yes and books are very important to people.”
Her Majesty also appeared very pleased to hear the experience of RVS volunteer Sue Cadwallader from Northumberland, who said helping others had given her “direction” and “purpose” after retiring.
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The Queen and Camilla heard from people taking part in the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme
The Queen gave a huge smile and nodded after hearing Mr Cadwallader also saying volunteering had brought her close to her son Sam.
The volunteer added: “I thought actually working with my son, actually (getting) to see him once in a while as well, which is quite nice.”
The two royals also heard from Anderson Akponeware, an NHS Volunteer Responder based in Middlesbrough.
Mr Akponeware, who joined the scheme while juggling between his PhD and home-schooling, said: “When the call was made by the NHS and the RVS to support the vulnerable and those who were shielding, I didn’t think twice before signing up – so for close to a year now I’ve been a check-in and chat volunteer.
The Queen is Camilla’s mother-in-law
Camilla speaking to Doris Winfield in October last year
“People have been living in their own small bubbles, and I wouldn’t have known how isolated those small bubbles could be until I took on this role.”
Over the past 12 months, more than one million people signed up to the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme – delivered by the RVS and the Good SAM app – and have carried out more than 1.6 million tasks.
Among the duties of responders there are grocery shopping, prescription collection, stewarding at vaccination centres and ‘check-in and chat calls’ with people who are self-isolating, the vulnerable and the elderly.
Camilla herself took part in this latter task as soon as her quarantine period ended, after Prince Charles tested positive for COVID-19 in March last year.
The Queen acceded to the throne in 1952
During one of these calls, she met Doris Winfield, an 86-year-old pensioner from Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire.
Following their first chat, Ms Winfield and Camilla remained in touch, and the Duchess of Cornwall was able to eventually meet the pensioner in October.
Then, the Duchess turned dinner lady at the Mill End Lunch Club in Rickmansworth, a place for older people to relax, socialise and enjoy a meal.
Chatting with the elderly mother, Camilla said: “You said to me to pop in if I was ever passing, so I have!”
The Queen and Camilla during an engagement in 2013
Ms Winfield, who following her face-to-face chat with Camilla said it “felt like meeting an old friend”, died in January.
Camilla isn’t the only member of the Royal Family to have joined in the scheme during the pandemic.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, has been chatting regularly Len Gardner, 85, from Batley, West Yorkshire.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex, is in touch with Edna Farley, 89.