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Joanna Towns

joanna

Jo has been a member of easyJet’s cabin crew for 12 years and was promoted to crew training instructor in June 2019. 

She has been furloughed since the pandemic hit, apart from a fortnight of flying in August last year following the country’s exit from the first lockdown. 

Her mum suggested Jo should volunteer for the vaccination programme after watching a report on local news. 

“She knows me better than most people and just knew I would thrive,” says Jo, 51, who lives in East Grinstead. 

Since January she has worked for the Trust as an immuniser, mainly at Etchingham Village Hall, but has also helped at the vaccination centres in Eastbourne, Brighton and Crawley. 

In Etchingham, she works with “a fantastic team” of cabin crew from British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Norwegian and Tui, as well as “wonderful” doctors and nurses who either work for the NHS or who have returned following retirement. 

“My main role is vaccinating, but I am also now drawing up vaccine and inputting data onto the computer,” says Jo. 

“I absolutely love vaccinating because it gives me the chance to chat to so many different people from all walks of life, a lot like I do when I’m in the air. I didn’t realise how much I’ve missed that interaction. 

“I have learned so many new skills already and also learned a lot about the struggles that others have been facing during the lockdowns,” Jo explains. 

“People are just so grateful to us and the NHS for giving them the vaccine. A lot of times the word ‘hope’ is mentioned and I think that is the key message coming across. 

“We are giving people hope that soon things will start to get back to normal and they can be with their family and friends again.” 

Many patients have shown their appreciation by giving Jo gifts. One woman gave her a knitted woollen bear, complete with mask, syringe and rainbow-coloured uniform, “for being her hero and vaccinating her vulnerable husband”. Another gave her a handmade charm with angel wings. 

Villagers have also baked cakes for Jo and her colleagues every day of the week, while the Hall cleaner has made them a chili. 

“I love my career at easyJet, but I must say I have never done anything that is as rewarding as working for the NHS,” says Jo. 

“I feel it has always been the backbone of our country and this has never been highlighted more for me than over the last 12 months. 

“I have been completely humbled by the unbelievable effort of NHS frontline staff throughout this pandemic, and feel it is a privilege to be able to support them in the way I can now.”