Volunteers' Week is a time to say thank you for the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering.
It goes without saying that volunteers have played a key role in the pandemic response. During an exceptionally difficult year, people from all walks of life have taken the time to volunteer and make a huge difference to their communities – just as they do every year. This is a time for us to come together and thank all volunteers for their invaluable contribution.
Jo Horne, Work Experience and Volunteer Co-coordinator, said: “We currently have around 50 volunteers in a variety of roles supporting inpatient services, specialist services, Research and Development, Forensic, Admin, Community and Vocational Services.”
Alison is a Pets As Therapy Volunteer along with her four-year-old Border Collie, Lulu. She said: “After retiring from my job with Devon Partnership NHS Trust, I soon realised that I missed meeting and chatting with people. It was then that I decided that I would like to get involved with volunteering and what better than volunteering with your dog!
"I have been a volunteer with the charity Pets As Therapy for around two and a half years and after Lulu and I passed our assessment with Pets As Therapy, I approached Devon Partnership NHS Trust to see if it would be possible for me to volunteer for them. After an interview, a DBS check and reference check, we were able to start visiting the Haytor adult mental health unit at Torbay Hospital in January 2019.
"We visit the Haytor Unit on a weekly basis. A typical volunteering session begins with Lulu and I arriving on the ward. We usually say hello to a few staff on the way in as well as some people who may want to meet Lulu before they go out on leave. I then meet one of the Occupational Health/Activities team and we make our way along to the lounge where Lulu and I base ourselves. People are sometimes already waiting there to see her. Others pop in and out as they wish. Having a dog is a great ice breaker as people like to chat about dogs or other pets that they either had as a child or have currently. There is also something very soothing and calming when stroking a dog which most people enjoy.
"We have just started to visit again after the recent lockdown. As a volunteer, we adhere to the same COVID-safe guidance as any other staff member to help keep everyone safe. It is great to be back and it is lovely to hear from people and their relatives about how much they are enjoying our visits."
Victor is a Volunteer Peer Support Worker at Langdon, he said: “I wanted to change careers, to do less physical work. I help with the peer group and say what I've been up to in the last week and listen to others. I also play games with patients and other staff. I get enormous satisfaction from hearing what patients and staff have been doing, get to talk with like-minded people and its rewarding.”
Volunteering can also lead to a new career pathway, like Emma, who volunteers at Franklyn Hospital in Exeter discovered. She said: “I had been thinking about changing my career into mental health for some time, as it's something I'm passionate about and I thought that the best way to gain experience would be to do some volunteering on a mental health ward. I volunteered as a Ward Buddy at Franklyn Hospital. I spent time with patients on both Belvedere Ward which was for patients with mental health needs and Rougemont Ward which was for patients with Dementia. Devon Partnership NHS Trust has helped me incredibly. During my time at Franklyn I learnt about the different roles and pathways of education that are available in mental health. I also had the opportunity to speak to the lead for apprenticeships who talked me through my options for going into mental health nursing. This then led to me applying for a nursing assistant role at Langdon Hospital. I was successful with my application and I start my new paid role in July 2021. I can't wait to begin my career in the organisation and use the skills gained from volunteering in my new role. I will also be grateful for the opportunity my volunteering work gave me.”
Melanie Walker, Chief Executive said: “I wanted to take the opportunity at the start of Volunteers’ week to recognise the contribution you make across so many key areas of the Trust’s day to day work. Your support across the Trust in roles such as chaplaincy, activity assistants, volunteer peer support, Pets as Therapy, horticulture support, research ambassadors, Café volunteers, music therapists, and other has never been more important. It’s dedication such as yours that has contributed to our ability to continue to support to those in our care during an unprecedented year. Thank you!”
Gary volunteers at The Cedars in Exeter. He said: “I spent over 42 years in the IT industry in a senior management position and providing a global service for my company. When I retired I felt it was time to volunteer my services in the hope that I can be of assistance to people. To this end, I decided to volunteer my services to the NHS. I spend one day a week, normally Thursdays, at The Cedars. Pre-COVID, I spent my time with the patients in the Activity Centre. Every week would be different in terms of providing help and each week there would be new patients to assist. Some days I help patients with IT problems, music, magic tricks, playing pool/table tennis, puzzles, help with how to compile a CV, general chat or playing the classical guitar for groups of people. There’s a real sense of achievement in both helping the patient and the NHS.”
Jo said: “I feel passionate and very privileged to raise the profile of the wonderful contributions our volunteers make and summarise below why we should support and celebrate our volunteers.
"Volunteering can help individuals in many ways - it develops skills, confidence, self-esteem, employability, improves job prospects and helps with our Five ways to Wellbeing - connect, learn, improves a sense of wellbeing.
"Volunteering roles across our organisation also help to:
Staff across the organisation will be celebrating volunteers this week, including the team at Langdon Hospital. Joanna, Engagement and Involvement Team Manager, said: “We gathered feedback from staff working alongside volunteers, volunteers' feedback and took photos of the volunteers, which will form our "Meet our volunteers" display.”