What has been your experience of volunteering in COVID-19? Tell us your story?

My name is Monica Bononi and I’m a volunteer at the Italian Red Cross and I work as a psychologist. On top of serving on ambulances, I’m part of SeP (Psychosocial Support).

On February 22nd, patient number one was announced in the news. I received a formal activation from my regional reference in Lombardia, Dr.ssa Sabrina Manzi and I started service in UDC (Crisis Unit in Lombardia) as a part of SeP to provide psychological support for the Red Cross volunteers and staff.

As the days go by, we improved our services recieving more calls every day h24, 7×7. By the end of February, the Bergamo’s Fire Brigade and OPL (Order of Psychologist of Lombardia) asked us to provide support also for population and non-red Cross various other groups. We worked hard, splitting our time between our day to day jobs in the regional healthcare systems and here in Red Cross.

How has the coronavirus outbreak changed your daily life?

My life is changed a lot, like everybody else. As soon as the cities were put in lockdown my life was split between Red Cross and home. In Milan everything changed, we cannot go out, we have to maintain social distances and we must wear masks.

What have you learned from the Coronavirus Outbreak?

I learned that a pandemic emergency is completely different than operating in a disaster emergency. We are used to be there physically for people but now we cannot be there, everything is done remotely. This is an invisible enemy that reaches out to everyone and everywhere changing not only a specific lifestyle but the whole world, taking away basic freedom, revolutionizing our lifestyles fearing everything and everybody. Our protocols and procedures are changing and adapting as we learn something new about this virus and this creates instability.

In the context of Coronavirus, what have you done that makes you proud?

I’m proud of my team, how we’re holding on and support each other in these difficult times, staying calm, professional with only one goal: caring for each other and the population.

As a volunteer, what is the main challenge during this COVID-19 outbreak?

Support my colleagues and other volunteers, holding onto my emotions and always be ready to quickly adapt to changes.

What have you seen for the first time because of Coronavirus?

My colleagues and people fears and fragility. The reactions are different from what I experienced so far and I saw in my professional and volunteer life.

Can you tell us how hope can rise from Coronavirus response?

To see the light at the end of the tunnel is a necessity, also for myself. It helps me knowing that I’m part of the team that works to help people to psychological support.

Monica Bononi
Italian Red Cross Society
April 15, 2020