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What it's like...

being a volunteer at Prospect Hospice

In National Volunteering Week, Su Starkey, head of volunteering, learning and inclusion at Prospect Hospice, lifts the lid on what being a volunteer is all about.

 Q: How many people volunteer for Prospect Hospice?

More than 650 people volunteer for us, from all parts of our local community – we are very lucky indeed. Before the pandemic we had around 850 volunteers, but understandably that number fell. We’ve now got a steady stream of people applying to join us, though, which is great – we can always do with more help.

Q:  Where do the volunteers work?

Pretty well everywhere! We have volunteers in just about every department and on every site. Walk into the hospice building and you’ll be greeted by volunteer receptionists, who do a great job on our front desk and phones. Then we have volunteers helping out in admin, counting coins in finance, helping the fundraising department by collecting our Prospect Hospice charity boxes, or in our café, helping serve lunches. We also have volunteers on our inpatient unit, supporters helping our clinical admin team with ordering medical supplies and the more green-fingered volunteers help keep our grounds looking beautiful. Some volunteers go out to visit patients in their homes and spend a few hours with them, while their carers take a break. And of course our board of trustees is made up of volunteers, too.

Q: What about in your Prospect Hospice shops?

Yes, we have an army of wonderful volunteers in the shops, and there are also a lot of retail volunteers working behind the scenes to make sure goods are collected, sorted, priced up and  distributed to the shops. We sell on eBay, too, so volunteers who are au fait with technology help our online sales team.

Q: What makes a good volunteer?

The one thing they all have in common is that they are very committed to Prospect Hospice. They come to us for all sorts of reasons – some want to give something back because a family member or friend was cared for by Prospect Hospice, some are looking to make new friends, and some – especially students – feel it would be helpful on their CVs if they can show they have volunteered in a hospice setting, and experienced working on an inpatient unit. Our volunteers come from many different backgrounds, but what they all share is a determination to give 100 per cent of themselves, and to make a really positive difference.

Q: Do volunteers have to commit to work a fixed number of hours?

That depends on the role they want to fill. For some roles, such as in shops or on the inpatient unit, we do ask people to commit to a minimum number of hours a week, as they are an essential part of the operation. Other roles are more suitable for people who can’t commit fixed hours.

Q: Are volunteers trained and supported?

Absolutely. They all receive an induction when they start, then have regular reviews to make sure they are happy in their role, we offer support to get into a role if they have any disabilities or particular needs, and there is refresher training to keep everyone up to date. We also encourage them to take Level 2 courses offered by Swindon College if they want to – they can get qualifications in several different subjects, including equal opportunities, customer service and food hygiene. Before the pandemic we also used to have regular meet-ups – socials, supervision and recognition of long service – and we’re keen to reinstate these as soon as we can.

Q Isn’t the hospice a sombre place to work?

Not at all! People sometimes expect it to be doom and gloom, but it’s actually a cheerful, can-do place where no two days are the same. And it’s so motivating seeing the volunteers – even if I’m having a bit of a rubbish day, I only have to talk to a volunteer and I remember exactly why I do this. It’s a great job!

To find out more about volunteering for Prospect Hospice, email volunteering@prospect-hospice.net

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