I have been volunteering as a coffee shop assistant at St Catherine’s Hospice since April 2017. I work part-time at a local coffee shop so when I saw the volunteer role I thought it would suit my skills.
I serve drinks, cakes and sandwiches to patients, their families, friends, and visitors. I enjoy talking to different people and providing them with a good service. St Catherine’s is a really nice place, you are always around different people, feel part of something special and can see the difference you are making. Everyone at the hospice is positive and helpful and I have been surprised at how much generosity there is towards patients and their families.
Volunteering with St Catherine’s has also changed how I see other people. I am much more aware of others’ feelings now, and of how I talk to people. I need to be sensitive to what people are dealing with here and I try to remember that I do not always know someone’s whole story. I treat people the way I would want to be treated.
In particular, I always remember a man who visited the coffee shop whilst he was waiting for his counselling sessions. One day we started chatting, we talked about clothes before he told me about his wife who had died at St Catherine’s. Later on a member of the hospice’s clinical team popped in to see me, and told me the gentleman had mentioned that he really rated our conversations. He had told them he could talk to me about his wife and that had a difference. That really meant something to me.
I am planning to go to university to study medicine as I want to be a doctor, so volunteering here gives me valuable experience and has already helped with my applications. Death is something we all have to deal with but the hospice is a good environment to face it. It is not a morbid place, it is lovely. It has actually shown me a better way of dealing with death. St Catherine’s whole approach of trying to fulfil people’s wishes has impacted on my life. I now try and make things happen. I am much more about finding solutions and I think that is something that will really help me in future.
When you are young you have not had many life or work experiences, and I think before you start making your own life choices it is important to consider volunteering to get experiences that you would not necessarily have otherwise. Volunteering does not have to be a huge commitment either, it can be just a few hours that help to give you an idea of what might be right for you. It is a good use of your time and it feels great!
I know for some students a hospice might seem an unusual place to volunteer. When I first started I was wary. I thought St Catherine’s would be too sad but it has been a nice surprise that it is not. Patients get to spend time with their families, and everyone works to make the end of life the best it can be. That is really special.
For more information visit St Catherine’s Hospice
Student Volunteering Week runs till Sunday February 25.