Despite the difficult times we find ourselves in, all dealing with the coronavirus pandemic in our different ways, we didn’t want to miss this opportunity to mark national Volunteers’ Week and say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to our fantastic volunteers.
Throughout the year, more than 900 volunteers underpin the work we do by giving their time, skills and life experience to support every aspect of hospice life. They are our hospice heroes.
From patient care to administration, fundraising and working in our shops – each and every volunteer is important to the hospice. The depth of commitment they give to make a difference to the lives of others is humbling.
During these past months many of have not been able to volunteer to keep to government guidelines on social distancing, self isolation and shielding to stop the spread of COVID-19.
We have missed them hugely, and have been lifted by their messages of support as we continue to care for our patients and families. We know many of them have missed their time spent volunteering too.
For those who have been able to continue to volunteer, we are hugely appreciative. From delivering food parcels to isolating patients, supporting loved ones and those bereaved on the telephone or video call; keeping reception open or collecting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other vital roles – we thank you.
June Patel, Chief Executive
Volunteers supporting front line care
Steve Fahey started volunteering in February, just weeks before the lockdown and was guiding visitors to the In-patient Unit through the Living Well Centre during building work. He quickly adapted to the changing situation and has been giving regular evening reception cover as well as driving to Nuneaton to collect essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from a central collection site. (pictured right with his car packed to the brim!)
Steve, 56, decided to volunteer in his retirement, as a number of family members had been cared for by the hospice team. Despite the current challenges Steve says he feels a real sense of satisfaction in his volunteering roles and would love to do more when it’s possible to do so.
Volunteers deliver essential food parcels
The food bags are prepared by our fantastic catering team and we love the messages they write on the bags! Feedback shows how much patients and loved ones are really appreciating this support.
Vital help for patients and families
Volunteers are making a big difference to the Family Support Team by providing emotional, psychological, and practical support. This volunteer help ranges from telephone and Zoom calls to give psychological support; emotional support for children and teenagers, and shopping and delivering emergency food parcels for those who are shielding.
“I get to give something back to St Richard’s”
Jan Matthews started volunteering as part of the catering team last October and has recently helped out by collecting PPE for the frontline hospice staff and delivering food parcels for the Family Support Team.
“St Richard’s were amazing, enabling me to look after my late husband at home before he died – when they said something would happen it did – nothing was too much trouble. Then they helped me through their counselling service after he died – and I wanted to show my appreciation,” said Jan.
“Volunteering means I can help people in a small way that are going through a difficult time – and I can give something back for the help St Richard’s gave me and my family.
“Volunteering during the coronavirus pandemic makes the role feel even more worthwhile – as I felt I was able to help in a small way and allow the team at St Richard’s to keep looking after those who need them.
But Jan said she can’t wait to be able to catch up with other volunteers she’s worked with and seeing how else she maybe able to contribute. “I will be eternally grateful to St Richard’s so am happy to help in anyway.”
Sharon helps host virtual social sessions
Sharon Ross, who volunteers with our Living Well Team, is co-hosting our book group and nature therapy social sessions via Zoom.
Before the pandemic, Sharon was involved in providing creative therapy activities for patients during the therapeutic day. She also co-facilitated the Horticultural Therapy sessions, delivering table-top gardening sessions, and guiding patients through the activities.
Sharon says: “During this unusual period, we are still supporting our patients virtually. It is wonderful to see our patients and provide a semblance of normality during the lock down. Our patients have adapted to the Zoom technology very quickly and all fully participate.
“I love seeing patients happy, engaged and being creative. Having the opportunity to make a difference through sharing my passion for horticulture and books, is a real joy.”
Helping patients with IT during pandemic
Gary MacKay is an IT volunteer and helps patients, carers and other volunteers with their questions on using technology. This can range from help to use devices, to how to shop safely online – and how to use various applications, such as Zoom.
He is now offering this support over the phone, but before the pandemic would attend a monthly session at the hospice’s Living Well Centre.
Over the past few weeks, he has been working with two patients – supporting them over the phone with their IT queries.
He says: “I am helping a wonderful gentleman this week. We are up to our third time talking and are making progress each day. We got his device working with Zoom yesterday, so we saw each other for the first time – and I saw his dog!
“Supporting people over the phone has given this a whole new dimension, but talking one-on-one with those I am helping is something I enjoy doing, and I find it also helps me keep perspective in my own life!”
Sally is friendly voice at the end of reception phone
“Having spent my working life as a lawyer, I knew that I wanted to do something less administrative and which brought me into greater contact with the public, so working on reception was ideal for me,” said Sally.
“In normal times, I can often be found on reception on Monday afternoons and I also do a couple of other shifts a week on a fill-in basis. At the moment, foot-fall through reception is obviously very limited but I still do Monday evenings on a regular basis. The work is mostly restricted to phone calls, but these are still quite varied, from distressed relatives, to patients seeking nursing advice, to lovely people wanting to make a donation and so on. One of the enjoyable things about working on reception is that you never quite know what the next phone call will bring!”
Sally added, “I really miss the camaraderie of working with the wider reception team of staff and volunteers. We generally have a good laugh and eat a lot of cake, while of course putting on a very professional face to the outside world and, hopefully, making a meaningful contribution to the smooth running of our wonderful organisation. I’m really looking forward to the work getting back to normal.”