40th Volunteer Series
- Over the next 40 weeks we'll be showcasing a different volunteer each week
Click on the images below to reveal the precious memories
Meet... Cyril, volunteer for 11 years
“I lost my wife of nearly 50 years, Val, in March 2008. I was completely overwhelmed. I needed something to do, something to grasp and someone at the Hospice asked me whether I would consider volunteering. I didn’t know what that meant initially but ended up working in the Highfield charity shop and also for the fundraising team as a marshal for the Midnight Walk – which I’ve helped out at every year since 2008!
“From volunteering on the shop floor, I started electrical (PAT) testing donated goods and then moved to ebay where I am today. I get all sorts of things to play with and it’s a bad day if I don’t get a Scaletrix in to test out for sale!
“What can I say? Volunteering at the Hospice is so enjoyable! It’s great and although it’s pretty mundane stuff, the team make me feel my contribution is really worthwhile and that’s important to me. In a small way I’m putting something back into a wonderful organisation that did so much for Val and our family and that’s what volunteering is for!”
Meet... Christina, volunteer for 13 years
“A friend of mine was cared for by the Hospice twenty years ago and the care she received and the support and advice the nurses gave me as just her visiting friend stayed with me.
“After I retired thirteen years ago, another friend, Pam who was a trustee on the board said the Hospice ‘could use you’ and it felt right to volunteer for the charity which had supported me.
“I started working as a courier running errands between the old Hospice ‘Shrublands’ and its administrative site on Kings Road but today I work one morning a week, alternating between Reception one week and Voluntary Services the next, which I love. I get to know everyone and I enjoy feeling useful!
“When I tell people I work at the Hospice, the main thing I say to them is that ‘It’s not what you think!’ It’s such a positive place and it’s the little things that matter that make such a difference. The staff always go above and beyond, especially doing those little things that matter so much. I often tell the story of one nurse who popped into her local newsagent to get an elderly patient’s much loved daily paper on her way into work. It made him so happy.
“I love volunteering at the Hospice. It gives a shape to my week, I’m with like-minded people, I can use skills I’ve gained throughout my life and everyone is very nice; there’s a real sense of belonging.”
Meet... Michelle, Complementary Therapy Volunteer
“After a demanding corporate career international marketing and strategy, I wanted a better quality of life which gave me joy and satisfaction helping others in need. I re-trained in massage & personal coaching before opening my own business in Berkhamsted in October to help people manage the stress and tension in their lives. I had heard great things about the local Hospice and knew I wanted to reach out to people in need and give back to the community.’’
“I have offered massage and reiki to patients for just under a year now, usually giving a course of six sessions and have found people really benefiting from the relaxation and stress relief of my treatments. I used to earn my corporate income from using my head all day. Now I love using my hands and my heart to make an impact to people’s lives.’’
“It’s highly rewarding being able to relieve patients’ pain and I remember one particular patient who had very restrictive movement and neck ache. After a course of treatment, I was overjoyed to be able to restore his neck mobility and relieve his pain after many years of suffering. Just this one moment vindicated my decision to embark on a new direction in my life.”
Meet... Gill, gardening volunteer for 7 years
Meet Gill, 63, who has been part of our volunteer gardening team for nearly seven years, working alongside and now helping manage over 30 fellow volunteers who are responsible for maintaining our beautiful seven-acre gardens. Having been through a difficult time of bereavement some years ago, Gill found that the gardening not only helps others but has been therapy for her too.
“Gardening is what I love doing more than anything. Prior to volunteering here, I was at Luton Hoo Walled Garden for three years but I really wanted to do something to help people more directly. It was very much about restoration and conservation, but here it’s more people-orientated. I’m so glad I found this opportunity.”
“The fact that we get good feedback from families saying how much they’ve been helped by the gardens is lovely.
I think the Hospice garden is a panacea to times of stress and heartache and we’re very lucky to have such a wonderful resource – but we really do rely on volunteers to keep it going so do come and join us! If patients are able to come outside in a wheelchair with a family member or nurse, it’s wonderful. I’ve even someone walking in the woodland attached to a drip. He wanted to enjoy the birds and nature, which we’re so lucky to be surrounded by.”
If you’re interested in volunteering with us, visit stfrancis.org.uk/support-us/volunteer/how-can-i-help- ...No prior experience in gardening is needed – just a passion for plants!
Meet... Lee, volunteer Counsellor
"I came into contact with the Hospice 12 years ago during a time when I was in sales, representing a medical equipment company. Thinking back to that time, it was most probably a premonition, but I was so impressed with the quality of the Hospice services and the people delivering the services that I thought one day I will come back here to work."
"So, here I am many years later volunteering at the Hospice, as a telephone Bereavement Support Line caller and now as a Family Support Counsellor. I have spent years in training for the role and the training is ongoing, so that the team is able to deliver current and new therapies to meet the varying needs of patients and family members."
"My passion for the work I do has brought me unbelievable rewards and experiencing the strength of character and individual courage that I see during the course of my work, is inspiring and humbling. So precious is life."
"I feel that I have found my calling with my work at the Hospice with so much to be done, new counselling techniques to apply and I can see that I will be making a difference as a member of the Hospice Volunteer team for many years to come."
Meet... Zac, volunteer in our IPU team
Meet Zac, 17, who has been part of our volunteer IPU team since February, and works with the catering staff in the kitchen - helping serve food and drinks to our patients.
“I have been interested in the medical profession for most of my life, and this role has been able to give me insight into the career I want to go into in the future.”
Zac currently studying at Chesham Grammar School sixth form, explains his volunteering role to friends, “that it is a very rewarding role; patients let you see them at their most vulnerable and allow you to help them. Knowing that you have helped someone, maybe just a little bit - but I have helped someone who needed it, and that makes me feel good once the shift is over.”
He continues, “It allows you to see a different perspective of palliative care, and what goes into it. You get to see how everything links together in the Hospice and how important everyone is in providing care to the patients.”
Meet... Liz and Tony
“We moved to Berkhamsted in 1981. It transpired that Pam Macpherson lived two houses down from us and one day she knocked on our door……
‘The nuns have given us a Hospice and I need an engineer to provide calculations for the architect who’s planning some renovations,’ she declared. “Well, you just didn’t say no to Pam!’ said Tony Bellamy who, together with his wife Liz, have been involved with volunteering at the Hospice since the early eighties.
“At that point I didn’t have a clue what a Hospice was and thought it was something pilgrims went to but, pretty soon after she visited, and even more so as the years have passed, I have come to realise what phenomenal places they actually are,” he said respectfully.
“My father died in York Hospice so that’s when I really understood the amazing care they provide. They couldn’t do enough for me and the empathy I experienced stayed with me; I travelled up most days from work in Essex and they made me sandwiches giving me quality time to spend with my dad. Since then my mother and nephew have also been cared for by the Hospice movement whilst Liz’s best friend lost her father in a Hospice and she vowed she’d volunteer for a Hospice wherever we ended up living.
Tony helped by providing those early valuable calculations and then was not involved again until 2001 when help was needed with planning for the new Hospice site at Spring Garden Lane. Liz, however, joined the early fundraising effort, approximately 33 years ago, and became a home box collector in Kingsdale Road, where Pam initially lived, and is still collecting around 15 boxes twice a year from local streets.
“In the early 2000s, I acted as an interpreter between the specialist ground contractor and the trustees, explaining the risks of developing the site,” continues Tony. “The Hospice was actually built on an old brickworks and was a challenging site with many difficulties to overcome as there had been a large hole in the ground for disposing of paper slurry. I then moved onto the Property Board providing some advice during the development of the new site from planning to the actual build before becoming a trustee from 2007 – 10.
“The Hospice was fortunate at that time because they received a huge windfall from the sale of the original Hospice, Shrublands, due to the sudden rise in the housing market which netted a good amount to be put towards the new build. It was an exciting time developing the new Hospice and I am particularly proud to have played a small part towards the infrastructure put in place, particularly installing new wells so the Hospice could be self-sufficient in its own water supply.
“In my time I’ve been an ambassador giving local talks about the Hospice, helping at fundraising events which is always fun – especially the time I wore a striking purple wig one collection day! It netted us lots of donations! I also volunteered at the original day Hospice. I still meet quarterly with the lady volunteers from the Tuesday group – we have a great friendship! That’s part of the Hospice, over time many local and personal connections have been made and friendships have flourished.
“Whilst I have many fond memories of the Hospice and the building, of course it’s mainly the staff and volunteers who make the place. You just can’t fault them. There is such happiness at the Hospice.
“The biggest thing I’d say to people is that it’s a place to live and people shouldn’t be frightened of it. It’s so important that people understand that. You can see it when families come back to do fundraising events, with the names of those they love written on their backs, they are always so grateful for the care they’ve received. It’s so special and it makes such a difference.”
Meet dad-of-two Mark, 58, from Chesham. He has a background in commercial contracting in telecoms, and at one time lived in Asia for three years.
He has been an integral part of our Trusts Fundraising team, #volunteering alongside them for nearly two years, helping identify potential trusts for the Hospice to approach and making applications. His late wife Margaret was cared for at the Hospice in 2011.
Mark explains, “I wanted to give something back for the care the Hospice gave to Margaret. I had fundraised and donated to the Hospice before, but after Margaret’s death, one of my rationales was to have more structure and be in a socially engaging environment to help in my recovery from bereavement.
“The Hospice supported Margaret, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. The nursing team was so friendly and supportive throughout her care at home and when she would visit the Spring Centre for reviews and pampering sessions including massages. She felt that her personal needs were being addressed rather than being pushed through a standardised process”
“Coming back years later, something I found very positive was the professional approach that is marbled throughout the Hospice. Everyone who works there is extremely supportive.
“I am also a dedicated runner with ‘Jog On’, a running group associated with the Hospice, run by coaches Erica and Heather. It’s had a really positive impact on my life. I’ve made some wonderful new friends and it’s brilliant that through Erica and Heather’s activities so much money is raised by ‘Jog On’ for the Hospice.”
Meet Angela, who has been part of the #volunteer IPU team for nearly a year, assisting the catering staff with ordering and serving meals to our patients, and also through pot-wash duty. She describes her role in the IPU as, “extremely rewarding.”
It was during last August that Angela arrived to do her first shift at the Hospice.
“All the doors were open, it was so hot! The birds were singing and the flowers in bloom. It was wonderful.”
“I heard about the volunteering opportunity whilst manning a stall for The Arts Society, Gade Valley, at St Mary's Church. I met Susan, who shared with me about helping the Hospice – and it sounded so interesting that I wanted to do something to help as well. She offered to put my name forward that weekend, and I received a phone call the following Monday.”
Angela, who previously had worked with the BBC Wales as a PA and presenting on radio, and afterwards, at Cable and Wireless PLC as a Government Relations Coordinator, started volunteering after retiring in 2005.
“Seeing the patients and their relatives so grateful makes everything humbling. You enjoy coming to work, it is rewarding and you know you’re doing something positive.”
She continues to add the expression, “Esprit de corps” – to describe the team members shared spirit of comradeship, and devotion at the Hospice.
“The kitchen staff are lovely – Chris is truly marvellous! What a fantastic job my co-workers do!”
Meet... Red, an adult nursing student
Meet Red, 19, an adult nursing student at Northampton University from Berkhamsted, who has been volunteering at the Hospice for nine months as a Health Care Assistant (HCA).
“I decided about a year ago that I wanted to become a nurse,” he declares. “I initially studied hospitality at college but I realised I wanted something more out of life so I looked into healthcare and I found nursing was my best fit. Within 6 months I no longer had anything to do with hospitality, was a volunteer at the Hospice and was waiting to start my nurse training at university.”
Talking about what inspired him to volunteer at The Hospice of St Francis, Red explains, “I had heard very good things about the Hospice and that they often needed volunteers so to get a bit more experience in a healthcare setting I decided to apply. It also gives me a fantastic opportunity to give back to the local community and do something that matters.
“My main duties include providing personal care to the patients who come into the IPU, this mainly consist of washing and dressing patients as well as helping to move them, I am also involved in taking observations such as blood pressure, temperature, pulse and respiratory rate among others.”
He continues, “As an HCA we often have the most contact with the patients and are sometimes also there just to provide a hand to hold or someone to talk to.
“I would say the most rewarding aspect is the privilege to look after the people. very easy to just view them as patients but everyone who comes through the door has led a unique life and is/was somebody - from veterans of past conflicts to ex nurses or shop workers everyone here has contributed to society and now it’s our job to look after them.”
“The Hospice gives me an excellent insight into the reality of life. Being able to care for people who are the end of their lives is a massive honour and really does make you look at world around you differently, but it also makes you realise that the little things in life don’t really matter and it’s important to live your life to the fullest.
“You often spend your time telling people "it’s not like what you think" when you say you work in a hospice but some of my friends have had family or friends in the Hospice and are very understanding and supportive of my role.”
Meet... Jack, a volunteer in the Communications Team
Meet Jack, 25, living in Chesham, and a graduate in IT from Hertfordshire University, who’s volunteered in the Communications Department since August 2018. He makes a valuable contribution to digital projects, through research and helping to produce content.
“Volunteering at the Hospice has given me more self-confidence and provided me with the opportunity to use the knowledge and skills I have gained since University,” he claims. “It has given me the chance to support my community in my spare time and also develop myself professionally. Coincidentally, two of my work colleagues from Waitrose also volunteer here so there’s quite a network of us!”
“As part of my role I have read many uplifting care stories and the resulting positive impact of helping others is something I wish to emulate in the future. In more ways than one, volunteering has helped shape the pathway for my future ambitions.”
Describing the atmosphere at the Hospice, Jack continues, “It’s wonderful to meet and work with other like-minded people. It gives me a sense of pride and satisfaction to know that I’m making a difference and utilising my skills and time effectively. I enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, the flexibility of when I work and for how long, and the sense of achievement I feel when completing my weekly volunteering commitments.”
Jack has now volunteered both nationally and internationally on completely different projects; the latter being in Cambodia on an Inclusive Education project.
“My previous time volunteering in Cambodia made me want to work for a worthwhile cause closer to home. Knowing the value that it can bring to both myself and the local community, I offered my services to the Hospice,” he adds.
“There is an extensive range of flexible voluntary roles at the Hospice and there’s a great environment with fantastic people of all ages across a great community. Volunteering gives you an opportunity for you to enhance your skill set, contribute to the support of the local community, and gain experience in a field that employers will look favourably upon. I am proud to spread the word about my enjoyment of volunteering.”
Jack’s passion for working and living abroad, and helping others, is now leading him to pursue his ambitions of becoming a Foreign Language English Teacher in Vietnam. Good luck on your travels Jack and we wish you all the best for your future endeavours and hope to see you at the Hospice again soon!
Meet... Kim, volunteer for 11 years
Meet 57 year old mother of 3 and grandmother of 2, Kim Hall, who’s lived in Berkhamsted for 22 years. She volunteers at our Berkhamsted shop, doing a variety of roles which range from working on the till, taking in donations and checking them, to helping customers and filling the shop with stock.
She has also taken over the role of sorting the jewellery at the shop, and often liaises with local jewellery shops for advice when needed.
“I tell everyone how much I’ve genuinely enjoyed my 11 years at the shop. The volunteers I’ve met have become very good friends and I really enjoy every shift I do.”
Kim continues, “I wanted to volunteer for a local charity and my daughter-in-law’s father had been cared for at the Hospice so I knew what a wonderful place it was.”
Having previous experience in retail and office work, once Kim started a family and began caring for them she was keen to apply her existing knowledge to a volunteering role.
“My husband and I like to travel and we are away a lot so volunteering seemed ideal. We love travelling and go to Florida twice a year.”
When asked what perspective her volunteering role gives her of the Hospice, Kim states, “You see it from both sides as sadly a lot of our donations are from bereaved family members who want to try and give back something to the Hospice for the care their loved ones have received and many of our customers have personal experience of the Hospice.”
“The most rewarding aspect is knowing that everything you do will help to keep the Hospice running and caring for families in the way we would all want to be looked after. It’s also making friends with our wonderful customers who come into the shop. We are on first name terms with many of them.”
When asked if anything unusual has happened during her time as a volunteer with the Hospice, Kim comically admits, “My biggest mistake was pricing a Phillip Treacy hat for the wrong amount, I was so upset I emailed the company explaining and they very kindly donated a hat to us which we auctioned off!”