This 38th annual Volunteers’ Week is a time to say thanks. It goes without saying that volunteers have played a key role in the pandemic response. In 2020/21 an impressive 16.3M people volunteered through a group, club or organisation, despite the exceptionally difficult circumstances, and almost one in five (17%) people reported volunteering at least once a month, about 9.2M people.
This is a time for us to come together and thank all volunteers for their invaluable contribution, which continues to make a huge difference to their communities. It takes place during the #MonthOfCommunity, which runs throughout June and brings together organisations with a range of events in order to encourage us all to think about and join in with activities happening in our local communities.
Each day follows a central theme to guide your plans for Volunteers’ Week 2022.
Wednesday 1st June: Volunteers' Week Launch
Thursday 2nd - Sunday 5th June: The Big Jubilee Lunch
Sunday 5th June: Thank You Day
Monday 6th June: Power of Youth Day
Tuesday 7th June: Volunteers' Week Close
Every week could be volunteers' week at the BioResource. We know there is no BioResource without the willingness of patients and members of the public to come forward and contribute to the health research studies we facilitate. Whether it's our bioinformatics team crunching volunteer data, our nurses taking blood and making them feel comfortable at appointments, our recruitment team welcoming new people to the organisation; everything we do is centred around our volunteers, and we are so incredibly grateful for every single one of them.
To mark Volunteers' Week, we'd like to pull back the curtain on one particular study we recalled volunteers to from our Cambridge BioResource. 'Recall' means inviting existing BioResource volunteers to join a study because their genetic or phenotypic (e.g. physical characteristics, disease, health records) characteristics match those required by the researcher.
This particular study is being led by researchers at Cancer Research UK (CRUK) - Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge. A total of 105 volunteers aged 18-59 from the Cambridge BioResource were recruited to take part, which required a 34mL blood donation and completion of a health and lifestyle questionnaire and sharing some COVID-19 data. The study, led by Dr. John Marioni and Dr. Michael Morgan, looks at how natural human variation affects the function of different white blood cells of the immune system.
Launched in March 2020, the study team, led by Study Coordinator Sarah Gibbings, were faced with many obstacles. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic caused significant delays, and as Dr. Morgan outlines below, the nature of the study meant that volunteers had to be totally free of infection on the day of their appointment. Not easy during winter months and a pandemic!
Through monumental effort and patience on the part of the study team, research nurses and volunteers, in April 2022, the final appointment took place and the study team had the required number of samples and datasets to work with.
In the video below, three volunteers from the CRUK study tell us about their experience taking part in research and why they believe it to be so important.
Senior Research Associate, Dr. Michael Morgan, said of his experience working with the BioResource:
"Working with the Cambridge BioResource (CBR) team was a real eye-opener into the logistics required to recruit volunteers to my study, made all the more challenging due to the numerous waves of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. We had a few false starts, beginning in March 2020, but once we were up and running, the nursing team were amazing at calling in the volunteers, always working in a Covid-safe environment.
"This was especially difficult for my study because I am studying immune cells, so we wanted to make sure that volunteers didn't have any residual infections - this meant that the CBR team had to be incredibly flexible.
"My study would not have been possible without the volunteers, who often travelled from quite far outside Cambridge, and the stellar contributions of the CBR team."
As the study progresses, the volunteers will receive a lay summary of progress in the early months in order to see the impact of their contribution. It can take many months, often years, for research to be published, but we think it is important to keep volunteers updated as the work develops.
You can find out more about other studies we support and how to get involved and sign up as a volunteer. Anyone 16 and over can join, whether you have a health condition or not. We also recruit patients with specific common and rare diseases via the clinical setting. If you are a researcher, you can learn more about using the BioResource to support your work.
Please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more or follow the links above about joining.