Our Athletes: volunteering in the community

Published 2 April 2020

Vicky Wright

Ellen Buttrick was aiming to make her Paralympic debut this summer, but the effects of COVID-19 means she has had put that dream on hold for another year.

Rather than focus on the negatives, however,the two-time World Champion is using her new-found time to combine her rowing training with her efforts to support the local community of Henley-on-Thames during this challenging period.

The Yorkshire born rower is no stranger to helping others, combining her pursuit for Paralympic gold with her work supporting asylum seekers and refugees with charity Sanctuary Hosting - and is now stepping up to ensure no-one is left needing in her adopted community.

How did you get involved in your local community? 

When Boris Johnson first announced social distancing would be introduced across the country, I found a Facebook community group who were asking for volunteers.

Originally, I thought there may be more capable people than me, but I thought I could come in useful through managing the volunteer groups. They have split Henley up into segments and I organise one of the areas which we are managing remotely via Facebook and WhatsApp. I have also signed up to be an NHS volunteer and I’m waiting to hear back on how I can get involved. 

Why did you want to get involved and help those who need support? 

I am involved in numerous organisations; I volunteer with the Girlguiding UK and work with a refugee charity in Thames Valley. Everything was stopping because of the restrictions and rowing was the only thing I had.

I thought it was a good opportunity to help people and I have always believed you need to make the best of any situation. I had a plan for my life, then I got my visual impairment which obviously changed my plan. I then started rowing and now I am on this journey to the Paralympics! 

The current situation is obviously pretty rubbish for lots of people, but we need to band together and that’s why I have got involved in the local community.

Following the news of the postponement of the Games, how are you and the team feeling?

I’m okay with it. We had a video chat as a squad to talk about it and share our feelings with each other. The para-rowing team are a tight squad and I believe we are strong enough to get through this and handle another year of training.

Of course, it’s far from ideal as you have gone through the season and mentally ticked stuff off, earning your seat in the boat but now we may have to re-trial and we are unsure when that will be. But it is completely the right decision to postpone. 

We were more worried when the Games weren’t being postponed. When you put everything into preparing and then you aren’t training properly, it begins to feel like if you win a medal it will feel like a hollow victory. You would ask yourself the question ‘Why am I celebrating when people are struggling across the world?’

What have you been doing to support each other? 

We have been having morning coffee catch ups online at 8.30am. We were doing it 7.30am but pushed it back an hour since the postponement of the Games! We are also regularly on WhatsApp talking to each other. A few of the team are isolating and training by themselves so it is important to check in with people. We will get through it, we just have to look after one another. 

Teammate Lauren and I have been Face Timing each other during our personal sessions which has been good.If you are doing the session by yourself, you can so easily stop when it starts to hurt. If someone is training with you, you have to do it! Now we have a few more of the squad joining us,but we were the initiators.

We must look after each other and band together as a community. This pandemic is showing who the key workers are who do so much to help our society and also proving that if we work together, we are much stronger than if we are divided. 

 

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