Volunteering with Teenagers at The Hospice

Did you know that we run a Teen Drop-In once a fortnight every other term-time Tuesday from 7-8.30pm for bereaved teenagers in the informal surroundings of the Spring Centre?

Linda Cooper, 70, is one of two volunteers who give their time to make it happen….

Q: Where do you live and what’s your own family situation?

A: I live in Berkhamsted and I’m married to Neville. We have two sons, now in their early forties and four grandchildren, aged 2 weeks to nine years.

Q: How long have you been volunteering with the Hospice?

A: Ten years. I get my gold badge for long service next week!

Q: How did you start?

A: A colleague of mine, Hilary (my co-counsellor in the Teen Drop-In) introduced me. We work as school counsellors at secondary schools in Hemel Hempstead and as a Hospice Helpline volunteer, she mentioned an up-coming course, which I did and for the next year, once a month, I manned the Helpline too. Then I switched to Pilgrim Group, which I prefer. I like seeing people face to face.

Q How and when did the Teen Drop-In start?

A: About two years ago. It was thought that teenagers weren’t very well catered for. They asked Hilary and I if we’d take it on and we agreed immediately. We thought it was a really good idea.

Q How many people come?

A: We have eight or nine on the books at the moment but usually about six come – boys and girls aged 12 to 17. They’ve all lost someone very close to them recently or in the last 2 or 3 years – a parent, a grandparent or a sibling.

Q: What exactly do you do?

A:It’s all lead by the children. We start by going round the group to see how people are and what their fortnight’s been like and then we go from there. We chat, laugh… sometimes we play music, card games, drawing games and we do lots of activities from knitting to making little felt animals or cards.

Q: How would you describe the atmosphere?

A:Very relaxed, informal and extremely supportive. There’s always lots of laughter but we have had tears. Occasionally someone will be very upset and Hilary or I will chat to them away from the group. Sometimes, though, they’re prepared to talk in the group about how they’re feeling – and the others listen ever so well. They feel very comfortable because everyone understands and knows how they feel.

Q: Are the children, being teenagers, ever hard to engage with?

A: No, never. Sometimes they may be in a strop with a family member but they’re never stroppy with us. We’re neutral adults. They can say things to us that they might feel unable to say at home without upsetting someone.

Q: How do the sessions leave you feeling?

A: Every emotion from exhilaration to great sadness. It shouldn’t happen to kids, should it?, but it does. The reward is the fact that they do confide – not all the time, but often. That’s when you know you’re being useful.

Q: How important is the group to the youngsters who come?

A: When we had to cancel in the snowone mum understood but was really sorry – she said the group had been a lifeline. A core of children come every fortnight and it means a lot to them. It’s definitely fulfilling a need.

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