How volunteering makes such a big difference to hospices

Categories: Community Engagement.

Hospice care is about making a difference to people’s lives. From our clinical staff to our fundraising team, we are all here to work together to do just that. Indeed, it may come as a surprise to know that we also have a huge team of over 400 volunteers at the Hospice.

Volunteers support so many aspects of our work and their dedication and support adds an additional quality to the care we provide and enhances our ability to reach more people. In my role as Chief Executive here at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, I’ve seen first-hand the contribution our volunteers have made through a wide range of volunteering roles, whether this is in our shops, supporting fundraising and administration or working directly with patients and families; all making a difference to every individual we support.

The staff at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice really value the support that volunteers bring and the important role they play as part of the whole hospice team. All our staff make a particularly special effort during Volunteers’ Week, to show this appreciation to all our volunteers through events such as tea parties and individualised thank you messages. This year was no exception. Throughout the year, volunteers are also included in updates about the hospice at our Open Forums and Briefings.

Our Family Carer and Support Team are just one of the services here at the hospice which benefit greatly from volunteer support. As we receive up to 700 referrals a year, our bereavement service would not be possible without our team of over 20 specially trained volunteers. We receive some great feedback from our patients who find the support from our volunteer bereavement workers, counsellors and support workers invaluable, enabling them to cope better.

People volunteer for all different sorts of reasons. Some have a personal attachment to the hospice, whereas others volunteer for personal development. Volunteering can help individuals to gain new skills, meet new people, give something back to their local community and to improve confidence and self-esteem. It is not all about what they can do for us, it’s also very much about what we can do for them. Many roles include training and development.  We have some fantastic success stories of individuals who have joined us as volunteers and have achieved employment either at the hospice, or jobs elsewhere through skills learned in their volunteer role.

Volunteers also have an important role in enabling people to feel less alone.  This month we launched ‘The Welcome Group’ – a new volunteer led service at our Day Hospice that provides social and peer support for patients who have a life limiting or terminal illness. Our experienced team of volunteers also provides a range of activities. We’ve had some great feedback from visitors and volunteers already.

Volunteers play a big part in fundraising too. Our annual bucket collection is back in September which is one of our biggest volunteer led campaigns. Last year, over 500 volunteers took to the streets of Birmingham to raise as much money as they could for the hospice during the ‘Big Brum Bucket Collection’.

This year, on Friday 23 and Saturday 24 September, we are looking for more volunteers to make it even bigger and better. By even sparing a few hours, our volunteers will be helping to change the community for the better.

The contribution of volunteers to our hospice has been invaluable and we plan to build on this over the next few years in our new ‘Hospice care for all’ strategy.

Whether our volunteers are able to dedicate a few days a week, or a couple of hours- each and every one of them makes a big difference to our hospice’s work.

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