A Different Journey
Updated: Dec 23, 2021
My travel industry career began in 1979 and, aside from marriage, motherhood and family, it has been my life. From those early days as a teenager at Lewis's Travel Bureau in the iconic Leeds department store I went on to manage resorts in Greece for Thomson Holidays, before travelling the length and breadth of Britain representing Leger Holidays and Great Rail Journeys, among other companies.
When the pandemic hit I was still working in travel, helping organise events, sales and marketing campaigns for tour operators, travel publications and agents. It's safe to say that the travel industry has been hit the hardest by Covid-19 and, when times are tough, it's generally the sales and marketing budgets that are slashed first. And so it was, March 2020, the pandemic hitting hard, that I was one of the first people to lose my job, possibly even my career. What made things worse was that I was freelance, a recent set-up and I fell through all the cracks of the system.
When the vaccine became available I wanted to get involved, do something positive. In my mind at the time I wanted to do my bit to help get us back to some kind of normality. I suppose I was really keen to help get the travel industry moving again. So many of us had lost our jobs, some will have even left the industry forever. Little did I know it was the start of different journey away from travel for me too.
I was fortunate enough to get work at a local vaccination clinic, which I found rewarding. I began as a marshal, welcoming people to the clinic and making them feel at ease. I eventually progressed to an administration role at another clinic. At the same time I volunteered as a 'Community Champion', helping to spread the word in parts of Leeds where vaccine uptake had been low for a wide variety of reasons. By connecting with the 'third sector' I also got involved with 'Canal Connections', a Community Interest Company on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal offering opportunities to people disengaged from society due to circumstance.
As this summer progressed and testing was ramped up, the Royal Mail began delivering Covid test kits on Sundays. What a great bunch of people are the 'Seacroft Sunday Squad'. I have loved being a 'postie', even if just for one day a week, and I still help out in Danny's fantastic team when he needs another postie behind the wheel.
At the same time I gained work with Pharm-Assist at 'The Medical Centre', also in Seacroft, as an administrator working alongside vaccinators. I had completed the vaccination theory sessions at the previous medical centre and hoped that, with more experience and in time, I would be able to complete the full course to become a vaccinator in my own right.
Through my work as a volunteer 'Community Champion' an opportunity arose with the Forum Central organisation to co-ordinate fellow 'Community Champions' across Leeds. Working in conjunction with VAL (Voluntary Action Leeds) we recruit peers from a wide range of communities in our wonderfully diverse city. Whether I'm speaking to the public about the vaccine or recruiting colleagues who are better placed to do so, it's a rewarding place to be.
I did finally become a vaccinator too. Here I am administering the booster vaccine to my husband at 'The Medical Centre' vaccination clinic in Seacroft. The sessions take place on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The young woman in the photograph is my daughter, Clare, who helps out once a week as an administrator.
The last year has been one hell of a journey for us all and it has been my journey away from travel. Many of us have lost so much and I feel fortunate that it was only my job that I lost. The person leafleting your community; the person recruiting volunteers to spread the word about the benefits to us all of vaccination; the person in the red van delivering your Covid test kit; the person welcoming you for your vaccine and checking your details; the person administering your actual vaccination; over the past year that person could have been me. But we are not alone. We need to look after eachother as best we can through this difficult time. And my hope is that soon we will all be back travelling again.