Good Causes

Ellen helps community stay afloat

Like many elite athletes, Ellen Buttrick has had her sporting dreams put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Yorkshire rower, whose career in elite sport is supported by funding from The National Lottery, was set to make her Paralympic debut in Tokyo this summer. Instead the two-time World Champion is dividing her time between intensive training sessions on a rowing machine and helping organise a team of community volunteers in Henley-on-Thames, her adopted home.

As an Area Coordinator for the Henley COVID-19 Mutual Aid group, the 24-year-old oversees a group of about 150 volunteers helping those who are self-isolating or particularly vulnerable to the virus. Ellen said, “We do things like picking up food and prescriptions and walking dogs. If it’s someone’s birthday, our volunteers will drop off chocolates at their home.”

Ellen, who turned to Para sport after losing part of her vision due to an inherited form of Juvenile Macular Dystrophy, is no stranger to volunteering. Before the COVID-19 crisis, she used her time outside of training to support refugees and asylum seekers as a volunteer with the charity Sanctuary Hosting. She also volunteers with Girlguiding UK and hopes to resume her work with both organisations once the social isolation measures are lifted.

Ellen said, “One of the reasons I wanted to get involved [in the Henley COVID-19 Mutual Aid Group] is that I have charity experience and I just like volunteering. The second is that I have quite a few members of my family who are self-isolating in different areas of the country and I’m not able to travel to them. By helping members of my community I hope people around the country will do the same.”

The past few months have been a time of upheaval for GB’s rowers who learned the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games had been postponed just days after their Caversham training base was closed. Ellen was disappointed of course, but she readily acknowledges it was the right decision and is determined to maintain her focus and fitness.

She said, “As para athletes, we’re pretty resilient because of what we’ve been through already; we’re used to things changing our life plans. I never expected to get a visual impairment, but it happened and now I’ve made the best of it.”

Ellen believes the focus that comes with being an athlete has helped her adjust to life during the crisis. She said, “It’s a bit strange at the moment because we don’t have a new date [for the Games] and you don’t know what you’re going to be doing for the next 12 months – but then nobody knows what they’re doing. We’re lucky as athletes that we have our training to focus on and a big goal to look forward to.”

12th May 2020

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