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!”
Meet... Sam, volunteer for 18 months
Meet Sam Evans, 43, a working mother of two, who has been a Hospice Inpatient Unit (IPU), volunteer for 18 months. She was motivated to become a volunteer by wanting to help others…
“I wanted to volunteer as I felt I lead such a busy life with work, being a wife and mother, I wanted to give something back to others, it’s time where I can think of the patients that I’m helping and nothing else! I love meeting new people and helping others.”
Describing her role in further detail, Sam explains, “I work in and around the IPU helping with a range of duties from ironing through to serving, interacting and supporting patients.”
“For me the work is win, win, since I enjoy so much being part of a group where there is great team spirit and where my own positive social personality, I hope, helps to comfort the patients from time to time.”
She continues, “I volunteer once per month in the evening although when there is a call for extra help I always put my name forward wherever possible.”
I love being active outdoors so I take every opportunity I can get to join in the Hospice organised events and I have been really surprised at how many sporting events there are. There is something for everyone whether it be a sport challenge for walking, cycling, running, golf, or trekking and that’s not to mention all the other fun events at the Hospice”
I feel so happy with my volunteer work with the Hospice, sharing and caring, that I will be doing this for many more years to come."
Meet... John, one of our volunteer gardeners!
Meet John, 71, from Kings Langley, and one of our fantastic volunteer gardeners who come in to tend the Hospice gardens every Tuesday; usually mowing the lawns and fixing mowers, barrows and any broken tools. He also helps with marshalling at our community events. ×
After retiring in 2010, John was keen to offer his services to three Charities, the Hospice being one. John gives his perspective of the Hospice he gains through volunteering…
“One of the most rewarding aspects of volunteering is seeing the gardens prosper and develop over the years,” explains John. “I also get to see and hear about the pleasure and benefit that the gardens give to patients and their relatives.”
Having studied for a degree is in Organic/Analytical Chemistry, John worked for Amersham International, (latterly GE Healthcare) all his working life, in more than 35 roles across the world but became involved with the Hospice as a Corporate Volunteer, through his employer, both at the old Hospice in Berkhamsted, and later at the new site in Spring Garden Lane. He had enjoyed the Corporate volunteering so much that he wanted to continue to be involved once he retired.
When asked what one of his most memorable moments at the Hospice was, John replies, “I used to look after the flower beds on the left just outside the entrance. I was planting daffodil bulbs one spring day when an elderly man came to me with some daffodil bulbs in a pot.”
“They had finished flowering, but he said they had been at his wife’s bedside in her last days, and asked if I would please plant them for him. It would have been hard not to be moved.”
Meet... Toral, a volunteer Complementary Therapist!
Meet Toral, 35, who lives locally in Hertfordshire, who has been part of the Hospice InPatient Unit (IPU) and Spring Centre Team for 2 years, volunteering every week as a Complementary Therapist, offering treatments to patients using an alternative holistic treatment called Reiki. It helps aid relaxation and assist in the body’s emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. ×
“I sing to my friends about visiting the Hospice and they often reply with, isn’t it tough? However, I express that I find the volunteering extremely rewarding.” The Hospice is a truly amazing place, it was only once I joined, I realised the vast amount of activities and support that is offered to patients and their families.
“I used to think that a hospice was a place to die. However there is a lot more than meets the eye. The support provided at The Hospice of St Francis in particular is incredible.”
After studying a business degree at Kingston University, and initially working for a London based Accountancy Examining Board, as a Business Continuity Disaster Recovery Officer role - Toral was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2012.
Her life was turned upside down and she needed to find a way to manage her daily chronic pain, so decided to go down the holistic path and trained as a Reiki Master. Upon noticing it was helping her on a daily basis, she decided to find opportunities giving supportive treatment to those in need.
“My previous role was very different – I couldn’t imagine going back to a similar position because I have found my purpose in Holistic Therapies. I love the role because it’s so rewarding, as I struggle with chronic pain myself every day.
“I first experienced Reiki in June 2015, I felt so disconnected with life and very unbalanced so felt the need to try alternative treatment to western medicine, my first session was lovely, extremely relaxing and I felt so much more grounded, I initially had 3 sessions and this was my turning point to train for the qualification myself.
“After I trained in Reiki I would practice self reiki most days and it’s so relaxing, I sit and meditate first and then practice Reiki for 30 minutes.”
Initially contacting the Hospice to find out if any Reiki volunteering positions were available in May of 2016, Toral realised she wasn’t ready mentally, physically nor emotionally to start volunteering at the Hospice and didn’t pursue it. However, the following year, she contacted the Hospice and following successful interviews she was welcomed into the volunteering team and hasn’t looked back. She describes one of the most rewarding aspects of her work, “Following the meeting with a patient for their treatment, they express their thanks, and there are no words to describe how I feel. It’s like I’ve done something to help someone right there in that moment in need.”
Meet... Julia, a Home Box collector and volunteer receptionist
Meet Julia Boyce, 70, a Home Box collector and volunteer receptionist from Berkhamsted working every other Wednesday morning, but as with so many Hospice volunteers, willing and ready to do extra times to cover holidays. ×
“While 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the Hospice, it is also the anniversary of our moving to Berkhamsted in 1979 from Rickmansworth,” recalls Julia.
“Even in those early days I was aware of the passion of the ‘Originals’ and did not hesitate to join the Home Box scheme when it was first launched. 16 years ago I responded to an appeal for a Home Box collector in our road, a role which I took on and continue to the present time. As well as raising funds for the Hospice, I also enjoy my six-monthly catch-up with the neighbours!”
Julia spent most of her working life as a French teacher, including 12 years at Tring School, and then moved into educational administration as a project co-ordinator helping set up courses for the public sector at Ashridge Business School.
“Around 5 years ago I was asked by Volunteer Services at the Hospice whether I would be interested in taking on the receptionist’s role and I haven’t looked back. I was keen to use my skills and structured work knowledge to take on new challenges. We all have skills and talents that don’t suddenly evaporate when paid employment ceases.
“For many the receptionist is the first point of contact at the Hospice and first impressions are so important. I consider it a privilege to help people coming here - listening with empathy and understanding – so many speak so highly of how they have been helped in so many different ways. It is inspiring and rewarding to be part of a well-managed team in an organisation that gives so much to the community it is serving This is the best part of my volunteer work – may it continue for many more years.”
Meet... Daniel, a Berkhamsted Shop Volunteer!
Meet Berkhamsted Shop volunteer and JFK student Daniel Mackley, 15, from Northchurch who has been volunteering at our charity shop for nearly a year, in his first volunteering role. ×
He helps the staff in the shop by registering the online gift-aid claims that enable the shop to claim tax back on the daily sales as well as logging new gift aid customers on the computer.
“I live and study locally and I like to support local causes whilst at the same time enhancing my skills. Everyone in Berkhamsted knows of the great work of the Hospice and their focus on end of life care.”
Daniel also adds, “I also help by sorting through donations, restocking shelves, general tidying up and maintenance of the shop.
I began volunteering for an hour and a half a week after school as part of my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award but decided to keep doing it to support my local community. The staff in the shop have told me that since I have been there the difference I am making means that they have been able to leave on time. It’s only a short time out of my week and I feel good that the hospice benefits from my volunteering.
The variety of activities the Hospice is involved in (previously, I took part in one of the midnight walks), has shown me how important fundraising is as the main source of income, and the importance of the gift aid claiming back that I get involved with.
It’s great to support a local charity. The Hospice does a lot to look after people with life limiting illness (some that I have known myself), and the volunteering is a great way to develop your independence, confidence and customer service skills.
Knowing that the work I am doing is contributing in a small way towards the best support for ill people at the end of their life, is the most rewarding aspect."
Meet... Lisa, a volunteer at our Abbots Langley shop!
Meet Lisa, who lives in Abbots Langley with her husband, two sons, Henry 21, and Arthur 19, and their 4 dogs. She’s been a volunteer at the Hospice Abbots Langley shop since March 2018. Here, she describes her role and involvement with the Hospice… ×
“I’ve been a volunteer at the very busy Abbots Langley shop for about a year. My main task is to look after the payments from customers at the till although there is always lots to do.”
Lisa had a previous career as a nanny for 15 years but sought volunteering work when she had her two children.
“I now have plenty of time on my hands and love giving something back to the community. I look forward to my Monday mornings in the shop – it’s a great way to start my week!
“I am not new to volunteering work. In the past, I’ve been a Manager of a charity shop. Changes in family circumstances meant I wanted to find part-time work and giving to those in need always appealed to me. Being a local resident in the village meant The Hospice of St Francis shop was a perfect fit!
I also find that having lived in the village for many years and as a friendly outgoing person myself, local contact and friendship with other village folks brings a positive benefit all round.”
Lisa fondly recalls of one of her most memorable moments while working in the shop…
“It is of huge satisfaction and a testament to the good of human nature when having sold a glass ornament to a customer recently - she went home, looked up the item identity on the internet, found it was far more valuable than the price she paid, came back to the shop and gave us a further donation – brilliant!”
In addition to her volunteering for the Hospice, and getting involved in the local community, Lisa’s other interest is dog breeding.
“It was so unexpected and I was so pleased when The Hospice of St Francis offered me a complimentary first aid course for dogs, based in Chipperfield. “The course covered a variety of everyday things that could happen to your pet. We even did CPR on a rubber dog!”
She adds, “There’s so much more to the Hospice than we can see at first glance and I am looking forward to a long and happy time there as a volunteer.”
Meet... Gordon, who teaches Tai Chi and Qigong
Meet Gordon 70, from Croxley Green. He teaches Tai Chi and Qigong at the Hospice, becoming involved with us back in April 2013 when the refurbished Spring Centre became available for wellness activities. ×
With a background in consulting Gordon started practicing Tai Chi in his forties as a way of coping with a very stressful work life, before started teaching the art in 2012 when he retired from work.
Research suggests there are many benefits of regularly practising Tai Chi including strengthening the immune system and enhancing flexibility to promote health and longevity.
Gordon said, “I have always been interested in Positive Psychology, which has a focus on wellness and I also had an interest in Philosophy, including Chinese Philosophy and these two interests came together in the practise of Tai Chi, with its focus on moving meditation, mental and physical balance, and harmony with nature and with those around you.
“I was inspired to volunteer at the Hospice, having supported my late wife who had complementary therapy sessions at Peace Hospice when she was fighting an aggressive brain tumour, and she really enjoyed those sessions. When, some years later, the opportunity arose to teach Tai Chi, it seemed a good way to give something back.
“Together with my colleague Pam Nicklin, I held a taster session at the Hospice in 2013 and there was positive feedback. We then started an additional class for beginners and then introduced an Adapted Tai Chi course for those with mobility issues.
“There seems to be a special bond between the Hospice and the Tai Chi activities, specifically between the “spirit” of the Hospice and the “spirit” of Tai Chi - both seek acceptance of ourselves, others, and the circumstances we find ourselves in.
“My most rewarding aspect of volunteering was recently, when the group practised outside in the spring and summer. We generated a feeling of peace and tranquillity in those who could see us. We felt calm and tranquil doing the exercises but did not realise this generated similar feelings in others.
“There is a combination of love, caring, calmness, and duty in the best sense of the word, dedication, and harmony which all make uplifting episodes that are impossible to define. It’s all there permeating the place, from the top down, and the bottom up.”
Meet... Graham, a Kings Langley Shop Volunteer for 7 years!
Meet Graham, who’s been a volunteer at the Kings Langley shop for 7 years since 2012. He helps in the shop every week and is also one of our valued drivers – reporting to our Trading team and collecting items that have been pledged, taking them to various local Hospice of St Francis shops. ×
Living in Kings Langley with his wife Margaret, Graham shares his story as to why he came to volunteer at the Hospice…
“I was walking in my village one day, and saw the notice in the window advertising for volunteers, and thought why not!”
Having always led a busy life family and work-life - Graham was keen to remain busy when he retired. He had a career in the transport and motor business, and serving for a number of years as a service manager for a Milton Keynes leasing company and then a service driver for a local Land Rover dealership.
He became a member of the ProBus (Professional and Business) group, an association of retired business people, a fellowship who have a measure of worthy endeavour and are of character and respected in the community – meeting with other members every 3 weeks.
Describing the shop environment, Graham explains, “The shop is a very friendly and busy place to work, with very many wonderful local and regular visitors buying and donating. It’s heart-warming to experience how appreciative people are and generous in giving.
“I started in the Kings Langley shop the day it opened and on that day the shop was deluged with visitors and to the best of my recall we had a bumper day of donations/takings that has never been exceeded!
“Volunteering for the Hospice gives me an opportunity to use my skills of sharing and caring for others in need.
“Special moments occur for me from time to time when I am out and about collecting donations maybe visiting the partner of someone recently passed away, that I am able to share just a brief precious moment of empathy and understanding – so rewarding – and proud in the name of The Hospice of St Francis. Long may it continue!”
Meet... Wendy, a volunteer at our Marlowes shop!
Meet Wendy, 77, from Hemel Hempstead, a volunteer at our Marlowes shop every week, serving customers and operating the cash register. She was one of four volunteers who started at the shop in November 2011 and has stayed ever since!
“I remember the day that I saw the advertisement in the shop window. I went straight in and spoke to the team to get involved in volunteering and support my local Hospice, as you will never know whether you or your family will need its services,” she recalls. ×
“On my first day it was very, very busy - everyone was so curious to see what the shop was about! Thankfully. We always receive positive comments about the shop; how clean it looks, the friendly atmosphere and how marvellous the window displays are - it’s absolutely lovely. We are like one big family!”
“Having retired myself, volunteering with the Hospice gives you an incentive and purpose to get up in the morning and be part of a team. I put in my two pennies worth of help for the Hospice, and do my bit to help the local community.
“It’s so rewarding. I would really encourage those who are feeling a bit lost or recently bereaved, to take the plunge and apply to volunteer when the time is right for them.”
Meet... Clare, who volunteers as an evening receptionist
Meet Clare, a publishing manager from Hemel Hempstead. She’s been volunteering with us since January as an evening receptionist on our main desk every Monday, greeting people who are attending appointments or activities and completing admin duties. ×
She also takes payment for purchases from the gift shop in reception and provides support to the Communications team, researching for the social media accounts.
“My day job is hugely varied and involves everything from editing book manuscripts to putting together business strategies and publicity and marketing campaigns. It's a really interesting job but I felt I wanted something else outside of work to motivate me, which is where volunteering came in” she explains.
Clare joined the Harpenden-based company straight after graduating from The University of Warwick where she studied English and French.
“At the start of the year, I decided that I wanted to do more with my spare time and give something back to the community. When I saw the vacancy at The Hospice of St Francis - a place which meant so much to my family and friends, I knew it would be the perfect place to volunteer.
Clare continues, “The Hospice is such a caring place with incredibly friendly and kind-hearted staff. For all the sadness that is there, it is an environment full of warmth and kindness - providing vital support when families need it most.
“Amongst my duties, I also do social media research for the Communications team which has allowed me to use my professional experience in my volunteer role.
“The most rewarding aspect of volunteering is knowing that by giving up just a small amount of my time I can contribute to an amazing organisation that provides care for people in time of real need. The Hospice is a wonderful place and the staff and volunteers have made me feel very welcome. I’m glad to be able to make a small contribution to such a worthwhile organisation.”
Meet... Rebecca, a volunteer photographer!
Meet Rebecca, Zimbabwean born but raised in South Africa, as part of a small family of 4 - her Mum, Dad and older sister. She lives with her 16 year old son Harry, who has taken his Scholarship place for A levels at Millfield School in Somerset with the view to playing cricket for England one day! ×
Rebecca has volunteered at the Hospice for over eight years. In this period, she has photographed many hospice events, capturing them in action for the Hospice to use to inspire others in future publicity. She also takes wonderful photographs of our gardens and wildlife and has a knack for capturing stunning images of people connected to our charity.
“Since making Berkhamsted my home in 1999, I felt strongly that I’d like to give back to this community that I’ve felt so safe and at home in,” explains Rebecca. I was introduced to the Hospice via Women In Business Networking meetings so came to see what an amazing place it was and it was then I realised how important it is to the local community.”
Describing her passion for photography, Rebecca takes us back to where it all started saying, “Photography has always been my great love. I was given a camera at age 12 for Christmas and as my Dad was keen on photography at the time, he encouraged and taught me so it wasn’t long before I had the bug and was never without a camera in my hand! The beauty of Africa and its wildlife and sunsets is what really captured my heart and to be able to freeze these moments in time was for me, mesmerising.”
She started her career in Cape Town training for three years to be a Cordon Bleu Chef. Following that, Rebecca spent five years travelling the world working as a chef and always having her camera in hand. She recalls, “I remember teaching myself to use my first DSLR camera in the back of our orange VW combi van whilst travelling across Australia in the late 90’s, developing the negatives in funny little towns and matching up the photos with the notes I had on the settings used. No digital camera nor computer back then! I would then keep the negatives on me but post the photos home as these quickly became a heavy weight in my backpack!”
In 1997, Rebecca chose to settle in England, adding, “I left the catering industry behind in favour of a new career in the travel industry - but the tragic events of September 11th saw the end of that career and was the catalyst I needed to make the jump into a now much loved career in photography and I’ve never looked back!
“My career as a chef means I absolutely love food photography but also enjoy photographing people through my event, portrait and marketing work. Through various clients I’ve been lucky enough to meet and photograph many celebrities, the icing on the cake being Mr David Beckham! And yes, I can confirm he is just as lovely and good looking in real life!”
When we asked Rebecca what perspective of the Hospice, does volunteering give you she replied, “It humbles me and touches my heart. I’ve done portraits of people who are no longer with us – one particular guy, Phil whose stoic attitude and sense of humour was humbling and a person I’ll never forget - and listened to their stories of how the Hospice has cared for, and supported them, and their families. Volunteering makes me see just how important it is to help each other because we all have a finite amount of time in this world, so let’s show each other love and you never know whose day that may make a difference to.”
She concludes, “Knowing that the stories I tell through my images are helping raise awareness and therefore much needed funds is just priceless. I tell my friends what an incredible place the Hospice is and how special the people are who work and volunteer there. I also tell them how humbling it is meeting people who don’t have much time left, that it makes you appreciate what we do have in life and to be grateful for every little thing.”
Meet... Peter, an I.T. volunteer!
Meet Peter, from Hemel Hempstead, who lives with his partner of 10 years, Rosemary, as well as a lovely cockapoo called Ralphie and a very ‘superior’ grey cat called Koala. He has been part of our volunteering team for four years. ×
Peter has helped many with I.T. courses and given one-to-one teaching to members of staff and volunteers at the Hospice. Here he explains how he came in to contact with the Hospice…
“In 2015 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and noticed a “Prostate Cancer Awareness” course was being run at the Hospice. When attending this, I read a leaflet about the need for volunteers and I.T. was mentioned.
“Having spent a lot of time understanding the modern computing environment and knowing the need for learning, especially for those people not “brought up” with computers, for the first time ever, I volunteered.
“My ex-wife suffered from cancer of the esophagus and spent her final days at the Hospice. Visiting her, I realised what wonderful work the Hospice does for people in her situation and their relatives.
“I find it satisfying to use my knowledge to help those who need I.T. for their work. I also get to meet some very nice people.”
Peter first worked on computers in 1967 and realised they were his “thing” working with hardware and software in one way or another until his retirement in 2009.
As well as his love for computers, Peter also enjoys ice skating, skiing, driving, air pistol target shooting, and piloting planes when he gets the chance.
He concludes, “I tell my friends that volunteering at the Hospice has given me a perspective of how much good work is done by so many people. You get to see the inner workings of a fantastic charity and understanding of how much good it does for the local community.”
Meet... Pam, a volunteer since 2015!
Meet Pam, from Gaddesden Row, a grandmother of four, who’s been part of our volunteer team since 2015. Amongst her hobbies, she enjoys hiking, traveling, gardening and visiting the theatre. ×
Having spent time supporting our Inpatient unit and our Supportive Care team, Pam now volunteers at our Marshalswick shop, sorting the donated jewellery and creating beautiful displays to increase sales.
“In addition to sorting jewellery, I tidy the rails on the shop floor, steam the clothes, input data on the computer and provide cover on the till. I am always happy to help in any way I can in order to make sure everything runs smoothly.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to volunteer in different areas of the Hospice, so I have a broad view of the services that are available to the local community and the ongoing need for fundraising.”
Here she describes her role and how she got involved with volunteering for the Hospice…
“I’d always thought about volunteering. However, I was motivated to complete my application form when someone I knew sadly died at The Hospice of St Francis. I was so impressed with the support that his wife and children received that I wanted to help in any way that I could.”
Pam continues to add, “As a black woman, I feel it’s important to be a role model in promoting the Hospice as a place where all are welcome, regardless of race, colour or creed."
“The most rewarding aspect of my volunteering at the Hospice would have to be visiting a particular person at home during my time with the Supportive Care Team. We shared a love of films. In fact, most of my visits were spent watching and discussing all aspects of the film we had seen. He also liked playing dominos. Unfortunately, he thought I was hopeless!”
She concludes, “It is true to say that I have found all aspects of my work with the Hospice very rewarding.”
Meet... Val, a volunteer at Returned to Glory!
Meet Val, 77, from Northchurch, a mother of three, and grandmother to seven grandchildren. She’s been part of our Returned to Glory volunteer team for six years, assisting in the showroom on Northbridge Road in Berkhamsted.
Val's working life began in a Solicitor's office in 1958, finally working for a Barrister in Colchester. She subsequently married and had three children moving around the country finally arriving in Berkhamsted in 1989 after running several pubs. She became Landlady of both The Boat and The Post Office Arms in Boxmoor and retired 10 years ago. She now lives in Northchurch.
She shares with us how she got involved with volunteering at the Hospice…
“It all started when I retired in 2010. One of my regular pub customers suggested that I look into volunteering at one of the Hospice shops as he could see me really enjoying it – as I’m an outgoing person.”
Within a few weeks of contacting Voluntary services Val had her first shift at Returned to Glory, “My first shift was fun. I recall helping measure and price the curtains - I felt like I could be working in John Lewis!”
Six years on, she sorts the donations that are brought in and checks for damage. These items are then priced accordingly and put out in the shop floor to sell.
“I’d never volunteered before this role.” Val explains, “I am very pleased to be part of a great team of volunteers because it makes me feel like I am giving something back to the local community. My father passed away several years ago in 1993 in Suffolk and I always wanted to help a local charity since. This is the perfect role for me.”
She concludes, “I really love the sense of comradery we have as a team and I try to inspire as many of my friends to get involved too as it’s so rewarding. One of the perks, is definitely a nice cup of coffee after a hard morning moving furniture!"
“I also really enjoy (amongst helping customers and engaging with them) when we receive lots of lovely and positive compliments about how lovely the shop looks - especially on the recent Christmas shopping evenings. Our team takes great pride in making sure the showroom is presentable at all times.”
Meet... Barbara, a volunteer website wonder!
Meet Barbara, our volunteer website wonder, who has been part of our Communications team for the past year.
Barbara’s love of computers and IT developed back in the 80’s. “For the final 20 years of my working life I taught IT – 10 years at The Mount Prison in Bovingdon, seven at West Herts College and three as a freelance trainer. Her last post was IT Co-ordinator in the Education Department at The Mount. ×
As well as her love for IT, Barbara also enjoys gardening, reading, music and everything connected to nature and animals.
Here she describes her work and how she came to volunteer at the Hospice…
“I’d been wanting to volunteer at the Hospice for some time as I wanted to give something back for all the amazing support that I received when I had cancer myself. I came to the Spring Centre initially while receiving radiotherapy for my second case of breast cancer – I had two different types within 12 months.
I was finding it difficult to cope emotionally with what had happened to me, so I attended counselling and later several complementary therapy courses, which were wonderfully relaxing!”
Giving her insight into what it’s like volunteering at the Hospice, Barbara continues:
“How the huge fundraising events run so seamlessly is beyond me! I’ve attended several Hospice events including the Ashridge Garden Party, Fashion Show and volunteer concert and know the lengths that the communications team go to make sure the Hospice’s message goes out far-and-wide.
I’ve brought friends along to various open events at the Hospice so that they can see for themselves the incredible work that takes place in these beautiful surroundings…in the hope that they may also feel inclined to volunteer when they have more time. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming.”
She concludes, “One of the most surprising things is finding out that people I know have also volunteered here, including one of my neighbours who looks after the fish tanks. It’s really lovely to know so many in our community are involved. It feels wonderful to be able to help even on a very small scale.”
Meet... Carole, a volunteer since 2005!
Meet Carole, from Hemel Hempstead. She’s been a volunteer with the Hospice since 2007 in a variety of roles. Here she tells her story of how she became involved with The Hospice of St Francis…
“At the time of my retirement in 2005 from my role as Bank Manager in Gerrards Cross, I hadn’t previously come into contact with anyone with a life-limiting illness. I wanted a chance to change that and to meet people who are in these situations.
“I’ve been a team member of the IPU (Inpatient Unit) for 13 years. I experienced a different perspective when my nephew unfortunately passed away at the Hospice in June 2014, which enabled me to see the Hospice from a different perspective when I became a visitor.
“Many of the family lived far away in The Cotswolds and Yorkshire but the care, love and support shown to them will never be forgotten. We used to laugh as Nigel would say it's like staying in a first class hotel. From the nursing staff, to Chris and the wonderful kitchen staff and all the volunteers -nothing was ever too much trouble and we will always be eternally grateful.”
In addition to her role on IPU, Carole has also undertaken administration for our events, and has worked at three of our locally based shops – but is currently based at the Highfield Shop in Hemel, describing it as ‘community based and sociable’.
“I really enjoy my role in Highfield,” she says, “We have many regular customers who visit and I enjoy engaging with them every time I am on shift. It provides me with a sense of satisfaction to think we can help local people as well as the Hospice.
“One of the most interesting things to happen in my times as a volunteer at the Hospice was when a gentlemen came into the shop and bought a set of harmonicas. When I asked what he planned to do with them, he replied that he worked with professional bands – including with The Who and Status Quo. You never know who you are going to meet, it’s amazing!”
Meet... Bryan and Jo, event volunteers for 13 years!
Meet Bryan and Jo, married for 57 years, from Chesham. They’ve been part of the Hospice events team for 13 years and enjoy walking, knitting and voluntary work in their retirement. ×
In their careers, they both worked locally: Bryan as a Chartered Building Surveyor and Jo, a teacher in primary to secondary and further education. They now volunteer at several local organisations – including with the Hospice; helping marshal at many of our events - such as our annual Ashridge Garden Party, and have become involved in the purple collection box scheme in shops around the Amersham and Chesham area.
They’re also involved in Amersham & Chesham Lions Club for over 50 years too and are readers for the Amersham & Chesham Talking Newspaper. Here they describe their volunteer work with the Hospice…
“Jo did the Midnight Walk for a number of years - now known as Walk With Us, then I joined her and started marshalling at the same event. We began to participate at other events and offer our help with marshalling where required.” Bryan says.
Jo continues, “We now volunteer for Bubble Rush, the Mud Pack Challenge, the Santa Dash and any other events that require our attendance. We do not have a favourite event, but we admire anyone who is willing to do the Mud Pack Challenge and enjoy it!! Everyone is completely plastered in mud by the end!!”
In their marshalling role, the pair ensure participants are safe and motivated throughout the events – bracing all weather conditions. They describe that it gives them the ‘chance to be the link between the Hospice and the many wonderful participants’ – and is their way of showing their appreciation to those who fundraise to support our care.
“It’s a way of giving something back to those less fortunate than ourselves.” They explain.
“We are very proud to be part of the Volunteer Team that gained the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. We were amazed at the enormous number of Volunteers and excited when the Award was announced.”
Meet... Jill, a volunteer for over 7 years!
Meet volunteer Jill from Tring. She’s been part of our Front of House team for 7 years; meeting and greeting patients attending various appointments, visitors of patients, professionals attending courses and anyone visiting the Hospice.
She also helps with our Corporate Partner Network team (CPN), attending their events and supporting staff. Here she shares how she became involved with the Hospice…
“I had been a Key Marshal at the various community events before my role in the Spring Centre, and then was approached to become an Ambassador for the Hospice which was a huge honour. Shortly after, I was asked if I would be interested in a voluntary role within the Hospice. My father-in-law also spent his last 24 hours here in October 2007, so supporting the Hospice just felt right.”
Having a background in Dentistry, Jill qualified as a Registered Dental Nurse in 1980 and has worked in General Practice, and Hospital & Specialist environments ever since - currently in Private Practice in Wendover. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, walking, Horse Riding entertaining, travel and reading.
“I must say, my perspective of a 'Hospice' changed when I started volunteering at the time my father-in-law was here, which incidentally was wonderful. However, I never realised the other aspects of care we deliver including complementary therapy, support groups and of course bereavement counselling and family support.
The most rewarding aspect of my volunteering experience is meeting all the lovely people who do the same as me, helping at the Bubble Rush, Mud Pack or a smaller event like last summer’s Castle Village event. We are all are here for the same reason, to support our wonderful hospice in our local community.”
Jill continues to describe how rewarded she feels when attending Ambassador Events – gaining the opportunity to highlight what the Hospice does and raise awareness to those who think a Hospice is a place you go to die.
“I tell my friends what a wonderfully peaceful space we have at the Hospice, and how lovely it is to belong to the Hospice family.
I am forever humbled by what our IPU team do for the patients, including the ones that go home as not all patients come for end of life care and the respective families. Our Holistic approach has been highly praised by patients and families alike and I am sure I can speak for all of our wonderful Volunteers when I say I am proud to be part of The Hospice of St Francis Team.”