Watch: Queen hails ‘wonderful work’ of volunteers during pandemic
The Queen teamed up with her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cornwall, to thank volunteers for their "great, great work" during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a rare joint engagement between the royal women, the Queen and Camilla called some of the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) team as they marked one year since the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme launched.
More than 1m volunteers have signed up since March last year, when members of the public were urged to help the health service as it dealt with the increased demand because of the pandemic.
The Queen, 94, has been patron of the RVS for almost 70 years and Camilla, 73, is the current president. It's a rare shared charity for the two women.
The Queen greeted her daughter-in-law with a cheery "Hello Camilla!" to which the duchess replied "Good morning. How are you?"
Her Majesty said: "Fine thank you" and Camilla said: "Nice to see you" before the call got underway.
The Queen told the 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, who is the RVS president, added: “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 two women appeared to match their outfits, both wearing blue, which may have been a nod to the NHS.
The virtual engagement was the first time the Queen has appeared since her husband Prince Philip returned home from hospital, having been there for four weeks.
More than 1.6m tasks have been carried out by NHS Volunteer Responders through the GoodSAM app and the RVS, the two royal women heard.
That includes picking up shopping for people, calling those who are lonely, getting people to and from medical appointments and also collecting prescriptions.
Watch: Prince Philip, 99, leaves the hospital after 4 week stay
Camilla has been part of the check in and chat effort, befriending Len Gardner, 85, from Batley, West Yorkshire. She also formed a connection with Doris Winfield, 86, from Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, but who died in January.
Ahead of the call, Camilla said she had enjoyed "lots of happy conversations" with Winfield before she died.
The Queen's other daughter-in-law, Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, has been calling Edna Farley, aged 89.
RVS chief executive Catherine Johnstone told the Queen and duchess: “I couldn’t be prouder of the way in which Britain has stepped forward to volunteer.”
Retired police officer Tracy Clarke, from Gateshead, told the Queen and Camilla that she had been working at the RVS Gateshead Home Library Service, delivering books to people at home.
The Queen commented: "Rather different work from the police I should think."
She added: "Yes and books are very important to people."
RVS volunteer Sue Cadwallader from Northumberland told the royals that volunteering had helped her after her retirement, giving her "direction" and "purpose" and had meant she'd grown closer to her son, Sam.
She added: “I thought actually working with my son, actually (getting) to see him once in a while as well, which is quite nice.”
The Queen gave a big smile as she heard Cadwaller talk about her son, and nodded.
Anderson Akponeware, an NHS Volunteer Responder based in Middlesbrough, explained he had volunteered while also studying for his PhD and home-schooling.
He 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.
“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.”
In February, Camilla visited volunteers at a vaccine hub in Wembley Park, where she revealed how much she was looking forward to seeing her grandchildren again.