"Making people feel good about themselves at such a difficult time is a privilege."
Self-employed hairdresser Cristina Tant spends five hours a week volunteering at our Thorpe Hall Hospice.
Cristina is part of Thorpe Hall Hospice’s specially trained Get Creative team, who offer hospice patients the chance to get involved in arts and crafts, use the hospice’s iPads to complete puzzles or crosswords, visit the shop and take part in other activities.
“I had a gentleman client who was given three months to live,” recalls 30-year-old mum-of-two Cristina. “We built up a real bond – he’d even pop in on days he knew I didn’t work for a chat.
"I realised how valuable those conversations were to him; they gave him some normality away from his illness. And, when he died, I missed those conversations.”
When a Timehop from four years previously appeared on Cristina’s Facebook page reminding her of her long-term plan to volunteer, it was the spur she needed to find the right voluntary role.
"Everyone deserves a spot of pampering"
“I did some research and saw the vacancy in the Get Creative team at Thorpe Hall,” she says. “It sounded ideal for me. I could fit in a few hours a week around my children and my work, and spend time offering people the chance to do just what they wanted.”
Cristina received training before going on to the ward, during which she mentioned her work as a hairdresser. It was agreed that her services would be offered to patients.
“Just having your hair washed can make you feel so much better,” Cristina explains. “It can even change your state of mind and make you feel better able to take on the day.
“I love the fact that I can offer patients at Thorpe Hall Hospice that chance,” she continues. “I’ve cut patients’ hair, washed and styled it, and sometimes just sat and brushed hair. It’s not always easy – some patients can’t get out of bed but we will make it happenone way or the other. Everyone deserves a spot of pampering.
“For one lady going through chemotherapy, having her long but thinning hair curled for possibly the last time was a real treat”, she adds. “For me, making her feel good about herself at such a difficult time was a privilege.”
"I never walk out of the hospice feeling glum or down"
Cristina doesn’t only use her hairdressing skills. She’s accompanied Thorpe Hall patients to the on-site shop, joined them on walks round the garden and helped out with tricky crosswords.
“A lot of patients just appreciate the chance to chat about normal things – the weather, the plants in the garden or the answer to 12 across,” she says. “My father-in-law died of cancer and I know from that that people don’t want to be reminded they are poorly all the time. That sense of normality is what me and the Get Creative team offer.”
Cristina has been volunteering at Thorpe Hall Hospice on Mondays and Tuesdays since January. She describes the team of staff and volunteers as a “big family”, and she feels it’s not only the patients who benefit.
“I get so much out of my time at Thorpe Hall. It really does feel like a privilege to spend time in the hospice with the patients,” she enthuses. “I never walk out of here feeling glum or down; in fact, it’s a really good reminder of what is and isn’t important – and to make the best of things.”
Interested in volunteering?
Check out our voluntary roles