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Harlow headteacher supports volunteering at St Clare Hospice

Charity / Sat 3rd Jun 2017 at 05:01pm

Val Jones

A report form St Clare Hospice

TO kick off Volunteers’ Week, today we’re sharing with you a lovely story from a lovely lady – Val Jones, a Day Therapy volunteer here at St Clare. Val has been with us for 5 years now, giving her time to us every Thursday…

“I first started volunteering at St Clare after my father passed away in a hospice. I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling of comfort and support that I felt when I was with my Dad, we were with him there right through to his very last breath. From my own experience of hospice care, I knew that I wanted to do my bit and to help out at my local hospice – so I got in touch with St Clare.”

“At the time I didn’t know much about St Clare – I knew where it was, but little else. I sent an email to the volunteering team to say that I really wanted to give back to my local hospice, and that if I could be of any help to them I would be very willingly to help.”

“I started volunteering at St Clare in 2012 with the Day Therapy team. I help every Thursday and each week we have a lovely group of ladies come in and I help support the team in any way that I can. On a typical shift the ladies will arrive around 10 o’clock, have a hot drink and a chat to each other about their week. Then once the session starts everyone gets a chance to talk about what has been happening to them. That could include anything from medical updates, to family stories and just whatever else they want to share. We then have some form of activity – it could be filling a box with all your favourite memories or it might be giving advice to our younger selves, we do all sorts of different things.”

“Every third week we have a little gym session where equipment is set up and the ladies are encouraged, no matter how fragile or poorly they are, to try and attempt to do something that they could then do at home as well.”

“We then have a lovely lunch together. The chef here cooks a wonderful lunches – and I think the ladies all have a soft spot for him! They are never afraid to ask him for an extra scoop of ice-cream to go with their apple crumble and custard.”

“In the afternoon there’s usually something more light hearted and we tend to finish off with some form of relaxation exercise. It’s at that point of the day you can see that the ladies are really tired but they’re actually really relaxed. They leave in such a different frame of mind from when they first came in at the beginning on the day.”

“I love volunteering at St Clare, I find it so rewarding. The most rewarding part is seeing people come in with their shoulders hunched up, with worried frowns on their faces actually starting to relax and smile. They cheer up because they realise that they are not alone, and that they can have a laugh and share their concerns that they can’t share at home with their families because they are trying to protect them.”

“I think people always struggle when they first come to St Clare because they don’t know what to expect. The hardest thing to do is to walk through the door but once you’re through you can feel the atmosphere, the support, the warmth and the friendliness of St Clare and it all seems worth it.”

“Too many people think that you come into a hospice and you never leave but that certainly isn’t the case. As soon as the patients meet other people in a similar position to them, they realise that they are not alone. As hard as it may be coming through the door for the first time I think most people would say that once they have done it, it was the best thing that they ever did.”

“Day therapy also really helps the patient’s family. It’s good for them to see their nearest and dearest relaxing and getting something out of the sessions. Also the sessions can give the families a bit of respite time – they can go off and do their shopping or visit the garden centre, without having to worry about their partner, parent or whoever it may be.”
“For the families, I also think that it’s comforting to know that they also have support – as the carer. Even if the tiniest thing is worrying them, they know that they can mention it to one of the nurses, or ask to see the doctor and have a chat with them. There is always somebody here that will listen and answer their queries and if we can’t directly help, we can always point them in the right direction.”

“My favourite memory at St Clare is of one particular lady who comes in, and who is a very skilled artist. One day I had brought some flowers for one of my fellow Thursday volunteers, but it turned out she wasn’t working that day and I didn’t want the flowers to go to waste. I asked this particular patient if she would mind doing me a favour and taking the flowers home and enjoying them herself. I asked her, in return, to draw me a picture of the flowers – and her face just instantly lit up. She said that is was one of the kindest things that anyone had ever done for her. About 3 weeks later she came in with this beautiful pastel drawing that she had framed for me! The gift of her beautiful drawing was wonderful in itself – but the look on her face when she gave it to me was just something that I don’t think I will ever forget. She was just so proud.”

“If I had to try and describe St Clare, I would say that it is like a big ball of cotton wool! It wraps you up, keeps you warm and cares for you. It’s nice and soft and is shaped to meet your needs. It’s hard to describe how amazing St Clare is – you have to come in and feel it for yourself.”

Wow! We’re blushing, Val! Thanks ever so much for sharing your story with us, and to the hundreds of fellow volunteers who help to make St Clare the wonderful place that it is. If you’re wondering how you can get involved with us, feel free to visit our website at: http://bit.ly/2pBS8Hz

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