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Santa’s Walkie Talkie Chats in Citywest

Bernard Murphy, Volunteer at Citywest whose Walkie Talkie Santa contact has been a big success

Santa, as ever, has been busy visiting many locations this year in advance of his big global tour on Christmas Day.  Ensuring everything is done on an appropriately socially distant manner, he has been applying both new and old technology and in a retro move at the HSE Citywest Covid 19  Testing Centre, he has made himself available via Walkie Talkie.

 Citywest Testing Centre

With the Citywest Testing Centre open and running for several months now the HSE team on site (made up of both HSE staff and volunteers) have been providing a Covid 19 testing service seven days a week and they estimate that by Christmas Day, they will have seen and tested over 42, 000 individuals.

 Volunteers

Amongst the team of volunteers is Bernard Murphy who describes himself as having retired “for the third time” in recent months. Employed originally as a brewer in Guinness, then as a manager of the Teenline Helpline and then as a Project Worker for the South Dublin County Volunteer Corps, Bernard certainly has a lot to bring to his current role in Citywest: “I was involved in the setting up and managing of volunteers for the Covid 19 Test Centre in Tallaght Stadium in March and then continued with that role and experience transferring to Citywest more recently.”

 

Outlining the volunteers’ role as “meeting and greeting people coming to the test centre,” Bernard explains that “we can see that sometimes quite a few can be nervous, especially children and some more senior clients.  So we take time to re-assure them and explain the process, putting them at ease.  We then locate and check their forms, place the forms on the vehicle or,  in the case of walk ins, we hand them to one of the ushers who guide them to the swabbing centre. We have ongoing interaction with the HSE staff throughout the day and so we all work together as a team.”

 Santa experience

Married to Breda for 41 years, with four sons now “well grown up” Bernard clearly has considerable experience of interacting with Santa.  “You certainly could say I had plenty of Santa experience when my own four were young.” And seeing the anxiety being experienced by some of the younger children attending at the centre in recent weeks, Bernard was inspired to take a festive approach: “As we began counting down the weeks to Christmas, we realised there was another way to engage - Santa!  So we used all our contacts and got a number for him in the North Pole.  Although he was very busy, Santa agreed to help us out and speak directly to the children in the Testing Centre.”

 

Bernard explains that they agreed that they would communicate via Walkie Talkie and get Santa to chat to the children about the presents, school, family and friends: “We decided that when identified any child arriving at the centre who was particularly anxious, we would  liaise with the mammies and daddies, explain what we could do, then ring Santa via our direct Walkie Talkie line.” 

 

And the plan worked: “It’s been a great success.  We have been getting Santa on the Walkie Talkie for the past few weeks now and the children love it. The feedback we have got from children and parents has been really positive.”

The whole endeavour has been great experience for the team at City West.   HSE Citywest Community Test Site Lead Sarah Jane Grufferty, notes: “Like everyone else across the country, we have had a challenging few months.   But everyone here has rallied and with our team made up of HSE staff and volunteers, it’s been a really good mix of people who together have become an incredibly hard working, diligent, good natured and committed team.  That team will be working right through Christmas and the New Year, so we would like to thank them and of course we would especially like to thank Bernard for liaising with Santa and being such a great support and resource for the children and parents.”

And as for Bernard – he will obviously wish Santa well as he heads back North for his well-deserved rest, but he himself will continue with his voluntary work in Citywest: “It is a great pleasure to work with such a great team and I look  forward to doing so as a volunteer as long as I can.”