Making a powerful difference

Sarah is only 18 years old, but has already given hundreds of hours of her time volunteering for the hospice. She started partly due to her Duke of Edinburgh Award and to gain experience for studying medicine, but it has turned in to so much more.

"Originally I wanted to volunteer on the ward and in day care. My grandmother passed away at Woking hospice when I was 5, so I thought I could give something back. When I applied they didn’t have any vacancies, so I was offered a position in the Woking Hospice shop. I really enjoyed it and there was a great sense of community.

People who work at the hospice would pop in, but so would relatives who often wanted to talk about their experiences at the hospice, so I still got the human contact role that I wanted.

A year later I was offered a position in the hospice café, which I jumped at straight away. At the time I was in my second year at college, so couldn’t give a full day, but still managed to have a full morning of lessons and then volunteered for a couple of hours in the afternoon. The role was a lot more varied than I expected. I thought that it would be a really sombre place, but it’s completely the opposite. People will often uses the café for mini-family reunions and I also got a really good understanding of all the different departments within the hospice, by speaking to the staff.

Shortly after I was given the opportunity to volunteer within the Community Nurse Specialists (CNS) office helping with administrative tasks such as organising files and data inputting. It was really interesting and I’ve learned a lot of medical shorthand as a result already.

I now volunteer in the shop on Saturdays, in the CNS office Thursday mornings and in the café afterwards. A volunteer position has now also become available in the Bradbury Wellbeing Centre, so I’m there all day Tuesdays. My role is to make tea and have conversation and bring a smile to patient’s faces. It can be difficult for them to talk about their problems with their loved ones, whereas that’s what volunteers like me are here for.

I’ve now secured myself a place at the University of East Anglia where I will be studying medicine and I really think the work experience here at the hospice helped. I will look forward to coming back in the holidays to volunteer and would encourage everyone to consider it, because no matter what you can do, you will make a difference, even if you can put a smile on someone’s face for 10 minutes that is so powerful.

Volunteering has become part of my life, and I can’t imagine not doing it. You make friends and become part of a community and it’s such a humbling experience."