Ann Pearson from Caterham, volunteers for St Catherine’s Hospice in Crawley, West Sussex, as a support visitor, helping people who need end of life care or who are bereaved. Here Ann shares the rewards she reaps from the role.
“I spent my career working in cancer research and then had to move abroad on a posting with my husband. While there I undertook voluntary work with head injury patients, mainly young car crash victims and found it very rewarding. On returning to the UK to care for elderly relatives I found that paid employment no longer fitted in with my life as I needed more flexibility, but I still wanted to do something useful outside the family. When I saw St Catherine’s was advertising for Volunteer Support Visitors, I knew I wanted to do it.
I work with the counselling team to help people who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness, those who have been bereaved and also those who are going to be bereaved. I undertook an eight week training course with St Catherine’s so am not a fully trained counsellor, but I’m there as a Support Visitor to offer a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, if it’s needed. I work with the full support of the counselling team and have regular training and supervision sessions, to make sure I’m not struggling with difficult issues. I particularly enjoy the training workshops, which are on a variety of subjects; it’s nice to be learning something once again!
I work with adult clients, meeting them for one to one sessions either at their home or in a meeting room. I am also involved with the Dorking Bereavement Group, which offers support in a group session over coffee or tea. I’m not there to ‘fix’ people; it’s about listening and giving support. Sometimes speaking to a stranger is easier than sharing with family or friends, people speak more honestly when they don’t have to put on a brave face.
I find it very rewarding to be part of the team and I love talking to different people. I’ve learned to listen more and have met some very interesting clients. It’s nice to know you’ve helped someone, even in a small way. One lady, who sadly lost her husband of many years, felt very alone, and struggling with self-confidence, found it difficult to go out. I encouraged her to join one of our bereavement groups once the one-to-one sessions ended. There she made friends and even planned holidays with them. It was wonderful to see her grow in confidence.
I don’t do it for thanks, but it’s always nice when you receive a note or know you’ve helped someone. When not in paid employment there aren’t many opportunities for people to say you’ve done a good job, so it’s nice to be appreciated and feel one might have made a tiny bit of difference.”
Visit St. Catherine’s if you’re interested to find out more about the hospice.