Volunteers' Week 2021: From supporting staff to connecting with families

At first supporting staff wellbeing as a volunteer at Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre The Chantry, Stella is now a befriending volunteer there and runs a monthly peer-to-peer support group for parents of people affected by an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI).

For Volunteers' Week 2021, we celebrate the contributions of people across the UK who give up their time to volunteer and the brilliant support Sue Ryder volunteers provide in so many ways.

A listening ear

I have been a volunteer for Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre The Chantry for the last three years, originally supporting staff with their wellbeing. I had a good understanding of how the centre worked and the support they provided as I used to be a Social Care Commissioner for Suffolk County Council.

When I left that role, there was a need for staff support at The Chantry, not counselling as such, more of a listening ear. This went well, but due to various restrictions when the coronavirus pandemic hit, it wasn’t possible to continue supporting in person. This meant I was available when the need for a different sort of support was identified.

Connecting with families

I now run a peer-to-peer support group for parents of people have been affected by an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), such as a stroke or road traffic accident. I have always been interested in supporting people with head injuries and had worked with other brain injury units elsewhere in my role as a Commissioner.

I always felt that it is such a hard thing for parents and families to live with these very sudden injuries, so when it was suggested that I connected with families who had experienced that exact scenario I was keen to be involved.

We found that WhatsApp was the best way for people to communicate, so I established a group and set down a few initial ground rules. These ensure that everyone always feels safe and supported.

We have a video chat once a month for an hour or so, which is a nice opportunity to see each other. In-between these meetings, the people in the group chat between themselves. I keep an eye on it, but I don’t interfere.

Supporting each other in the group

The parents come up with ideas for each other and support each other. At the moment there is someone involved who has been living with the situation for longer than the other person in the group, which means they can reassure the person whose child has not been in this situation for such a long time.

They do sometimes comment on something that could be changed at The Chantry and that’s where I come in. I can pass their thoughts onto the centre team and changes can be made. For example, one parent commented that it would be nice to have some time alone to speak with their child via Facetime, without a nurse or carer present. I picked up on this and now this is something that happens if possible and if required.

Brought together by a shared experience

The people in the group have been brought together by a particular shared experience and it’s great that they have somewhere to air their feelings to someone else who understands. Although everything is still virtual at the moment, they are longing for the day when they can meet up in the park with their relatives and all just go for a walk together.

I can see how beneficial this group is to the members, given how it’s all been so far, there might even be potential to expand it in the future. Eventually, I could see that they might want to run their own group, but for now I am very happy to volunteer my time to help keep things going.

Thank you to our volunteers

Taking place 1-7 June, Volunteers' Week is an opportunity to celebrate the millions of people across the UK who donate their time through volunteering.

At Sue Ryder, our volunteers play a vital part in enabling us to be there when it matters for the people we support. Wherever they are, whatever their role - we are hugely grateful for everything they do.

Find out more information about Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre The Chantry, the specialist neurological care they provide and ways you can help to support them.

Volunteer with Sue Ryder

If you would like to volunteer with us, you can find out more about joining our team, frequently asked questions and search for volunteering opportunities near you.