Volunteers reflect on 30 years at hospice

Categories: Care and Community Engagement.

At St Catherine’s Hospice in West Sussex more than 1,000 volunteers donate their time to support the work of the hospice. To mark national Volunteers Week, Peggy and Sue, two of St Catherine’s longest serving volunteers, explain why they give their time.

“I joined St Catherine’s as a volunteer the year after it opened in 1984” Sue said “I was already involved in other local charity committees and after an interview I started volunteering in the kitchen. Later on I sometimes helped in other roles too. In reception on a Sunday, in the volunteers’ office and as a driver for the Day Hospice.

Peggy has also volunteered with St Catherine’s for many years. She said, “I’ve been volunteering with St Catherine’s for 30 years this year. I began volunteering in the hospice coffee shop in Horley. Then in the summer of 1989 I started doing the Thursday tea trolley at the main hospice, a role I still do today. I’ve always been someone who’s volunteered my time so when I heard about the hospice I thought I’d help them too. I was one of the volunteers who started the hospice’s onsite coffee shop. During my time volunteering I’ve also worked with the Therapy Team, cleaning equipment and helping with clerical work.”

Today, Peggy and Sue volunteer together on Monday mornings in the hospice kitchen. It’s a busy time as all St Catherine’s homemade cakes are baked for the coffee shop on a Monday. But they do whatever they can to support the kitchen staff.

Sue explained, “We refill water jugs, clear the patients’ breakfasts’ away, wash up, and then take the tea and coffee trolley round the wards mid morning.”

“After that we serve lunches and clear the trolleys,” added Peggy. “We’re here a few hours, and most weeks we’re definitely kept busy! I still enjoy coming here even 30 years on. The kitchen staff are always friendly and it’s a very welcoming atmosphere. There’s a great sense of camaraderie in the kitchen.”

That’s something Sue agrees with. “I feel valued by the kitchen staff and I enjoy working in there as it’s the hub of the hospice building. I’ve met some lovely people here and made some really good friends.”

As well as the social aspect of volunteering, Peggy told us volunteering at St Catherine’s keeps her life in perspective. She said, “I often try to convince people that the hospice is a cheerful place; it’s not a place full of sadness. It’s never worried me coming here as I find it peaceful.”

Sue added, “One of the things I most appreciate about the hospice is the way they celebrate every occasion and any event in life. On Valentine’s Day, we serve decorated breakfast trays to the patients, and at Easter we give them Easter Eggs. The kitchen team have even arranged birthdays and weddings at short notice. They always get things together very quickly. It’s amazing to see what they do for people.”

“I love that sort of thing!” said Peggy. “Just last week the kitchen baked a birthday cake for a little girl, who was 10, whose Dad died at the hospice. And they recently held a party for a patient on the ward. She was so thrilled and had such a lovely smile when she saw what they’d done. The team do whatever they can to make things a little brighter at a hard time.”

And both Sue and Peggy think that others in their community should consider volunteering for the hospice too. Sue said, “I’ve learnt a lot during my time volunteering. And there are always social things going on with which you can join in if you want to. If you’re thinking about volunteering, I’d encourage you to come along, and try out a role.”

“Even if you don’t want to volunteer at the hospice, there’s still other ways you can give your time, in the hospice charity shops or out at events,” said Peggy. “The hospice is a place a lot of people would like their families to come to when they’re facing the end of their life. As a volunteer you make a difference to those people. That’s pretty special.”

For more information visit St Catherine’s Hospice

Volunteers’ Week runs until Friday 7 June