Today marks the start of Volunteers’ Week. All four members of the Burke family are volunteers at Saint Francis Hospice in Essex – here they share what motivates them to give their time to help out.
From abseils and quiz nights to mud runs and canoe races, the Burke family has been an ardent supporter of Saint Francis Hospice for many years.
They’ve always lived by the motto: “Don’t wait until you need it”. “People would ask us why Saint Francis Hospice is our chosen charity,” said Andrea, mum of Henry, 21, and Robson, 17. “I’d always say that if you live in the community, you will probably know someone who needs the hospice’s care at some point.”
It turned out that Andrea did end up knowing someone who needed their care: her dad, David. Andrea cites the care they provided for him after a cancer diagnosis as invaluable.
“Thanks to the Hospice at Home team, Dad could pass away at home, which was what he wanted,” Andrea explained.
Since the breakout of the coronavirus pandemic, the whole family has been volunteering at the charity. Robson, who was only eight years old when he abseiled down the YMCA building in Romford to raise funds for the hospice, is now studying electrical installation at Havering College. He had been shadowing the hospice’s maintenance man and brushing up on his knowledge before the two-metre social distancing rule was enforced.
“I expected it to be all doom and gloom,” he admitted. “But it’s the complete opposite. The hospice blew me away; it’s an incredible place. I knew that I had to help in some other way.”
Since then, he’s been keeping the gardens well-kept alongside his 21-year-old brother, Henry, and their dad, Ged. Andrea has been busy with the laundry and delivering patients’ meals on the ward.
“When you give a patient your time, you can see how happy it makes them,” Andrea revealed. “Those conversations can mean so much.”
Andrea’s employer, DHL, is also kindly matching the funds she raises for the charity, as well as the money she saves them through volunteering.
The usual Volunteers’ Week celebrations are on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but Saint Francis Hospice is taking the opportunity to say thank you to its 1,000 plus volunteers who give more than 265,000 hours a year to help people who are seriously ill and need their support.
The hospice has also received an incredible response from the local community with people currently furloughed reaching out to offer their time, skills and expertise to support the charity and stand in for many of its regular volunteers who have had to self-isolate.
Gill Wendelken, Voluntary Services Manager, said: “Saint Francis Hospice is so fortunate in having not only its regular volunteers helping still or waiting eagerly to return to their volunteering duties, but in also having the brilliant help of the community during these difficult months.
“So many wonderful local people give their time, skills and experience to help our patients, families and carers in a variety of ways. Our volunteers play such a vital and important role in everything the hospice does for the community.
“Whether in normal times, or during Covid-19, our hospice could not operate to the level it does, without the help of so many people supporting our services.
“And we look forward to when we are able to fully operate again as there are new volunteering opportunities to enable even more people to join us.”
For more information visit Saint Francis Hospice
Volunteers Week runs until June 6.