As reported last week, new research has highlighted the extent to which UK hospices rely on volunteers. The study, published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, estimates that there are more than 100,000 hospice volunteers in the UK, whose contribution reduces hospice costs by an estimated 23%.
At Havens Hospices in Essex, there are currently 970 volunteers, who saved the charity £2.6 million in 2013. And, as demand for hospice care grows, the hospice is looking to future generations to volunteer and fundraise, to help ensure its services can continue.
The hospice runs a Young Ambassadors programme, which encourages young people aged 16 to 18 to get involved in the work of the hospice, while gaining skills and experience as they prepare for university or employment.
The short-term volunteering placements cover a number of roles at the hospice, including in the inpatient unit kitchen, day care, creative therapy or supporting siblings of children who attend Little Havens.
The hospice also recruits fundraising group young ambassadors, who help organise fundraising activities and events to generate income for the hospice, while raising awareness of the charity in their local area.
Temitayo Oyeniyi joined Havens Hospices’ Young Ambassador Project in July 2013. He is currently studying for his A Levels and is hoping to one day become a doctor.
Volunteering as a kitchen assistant on the inpatient unit at Fair Havens Hospice, Temitayo helps to deliver evening meals to seriously ill patients.
Temitayo said: “I was a little apprehensive about volunteering as I wasn’t sure what to expect at Fair Havens. I thought it may be very serious all the time but it’s actually one of the happiest places I’ve ever been to.”
During his shift, Temitayo speaks to patients to find out what they’d like for dinner, helps to prepare the dinner trays and takes meals to patients before helping with washing up in the kitchen.
Temitayo said: “I love talking to patients, I think just talking for a while can help to make their day a little brighter and that’s definitely the most rewarding thing I’ve found about volunteering here. I’ve always wanted to become a doctor but wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to relate to patients. Here, I’ve learnt how to relate to them sensitively and really listen to individuals to meet their needs to make their lives a little easier. I think it’s the most wonderful experience you can have at this age.”
After spending her teenage years in and out of hospital, University of Essex student Ruth Jenkinson decided that she wanted to do something to help others.
Ruth started volunteering at Little Havens Hospice in 2012 by ironing children’s bed linen but it soon became apparent that she had the skills and personality needed to work more closely with children and their families as a volunteer care team assistant.
Ruth said: “I believe everyone brings something to this world, however long or short they’re here for and the children here all bring something to their families and to all of us. I’m not a miracle worker and unfortunately I can’t make children better, but one thing I can do is make them smile and laugh, so that’s what I focus on. I’m the biggest kid going and am usually the first one in the ball pit!
“I have so many happy memories and moments which have made me proud to be a volunteer at Little Havens. On occasions I have been able to persuade children who’ve been feeling down and haven’t been out of bed in a long time to play again. There is so much specialist equipment and toys at Little Havens that nobody misses out, whatever their illness or disability. Everyone has the chance to be a child.”
Ruth was so inspired by her experiences volunteering at Little Havens that she trekked the Himalayas to raise £2,636 for the charity in October 2013.
“The children and families have changed my life in so many ways; I realised you have to grab every opportunity and what’s more, I’ve seen people act so bravely at Little Havens and show so much determination, trekking the Himalayas was small in comparison.”