The time, effort and skills of our 11,000 volunteers help make it possible for us to deliver 2.5 million hours of expert medical, practical and emotional support every year at Sue Ryder.
They are befrienders and confidantes, organisers and fundraisers who help keep our services and shops running smoothly. Here, our Head of Volunteer Development and Engagement Tracey shines a light on ten amazing individuals who brighten the days of people in our hospices and neurological centres nationwide.
Dave – collection tin volunteer
Dave has volunteered at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading for almost two years.
He assists the fundraising team by collecting and delivering money tins from various locations around Theale, Tilehurst and Caversham. This varies from once a month to two or three times a week.
“I first heard of Sue Ryder about six years ago, when one of my son’s best friends was an inpatient at Duchess of Kent Hospice,” says Dave. “He was like a third son to me and he was so young at 29. It hit us all hard, but what made it a little easier was the incredible care he received.”
Dave’s wife Karen was referred to Duchess of Kent Hospice in 2015.
“The staff at the hospice are just fantastic; they made Karen’s stay at the hospice warm, upbeat and comfortable,” he continues. “From the nurses who are all angels, to the cleaning staff who always make a point to say hello, to the volunteer gardeners who are just so friendly. It made all the difference and put our minds at rest. The care they gave Karen as well as myself and my family was brilliant.
“Since Karen’s passing, I feel like my volunteering role is helping to give something back,” Dave adds. “I could never thank the Duchess of Kent staff enough, but the small things all add up. I feel like I’m helping those that are currently being cared for at the hospice.”
Sue – receptionist and welcome wagon
Sue started volunteering at our Leeds-based Wheatfields Hospice as a Meeter and Greeter, and she is now also an evening receptionist.
Her role entails greeting and monitoring the flow of visitors, answering the telephone and some administrative tasks.
“I enjoy the variety of duties, especially the interaction with visitors and members of staff,” says Sue. “There’s also a feel-good factor in knowing that I am making a contribution to the work in the hospice.
“After a long absence from the workplace, I was lacking in confidence. Thanks to my role here now, I feel more confident in my abilities and I’ve met some lovely new friends along the way.”
Mary – befriender
61-year-old midwife Mary has been volunteering as a befriender at our Leckhampton Court Hospice, just outside Cheltenham, for two and a half years.
She was inspired to volunteer there in memory of a friend who received care from Leckhampton Court.
"A friend had a great deal of help from Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court prior to her death," says Mary. "My friend’s courage against adversity prompted me to sign up to become a befriender at the hospice who helped care for my friend. It's a volunteer role I can fit in around my job as a midwife.”
As a volunteer befriender, Mary visits patients receiving care from the hospice to offer them additional support, often in their own home or in and around their own local community.
“Usually we chat and have a cup of coffee, or sometimes we might pop out for a coffee. We might do small tasks around the house or pop to the shops or wherever they would like to visit.
"Everything I do is based on the needs of the people we are supporting and what they would like to do," Mary stresses.
It’s a role she really enjoys: “It is interesting as it is so diverse. I have supported two people since I started volunteering at the hospice and both experiences have been different.
"I really enjoy meeting up with the other befriending volunteers at our regular team meetings too. We share our experiences and support each other," she explains.
Jan – day hospice volunteer and gym bunny
Jan helps patients in the gym at our Manorlands Hospice drop-in day care service, which runs every Tuesday at the Aire Unit in West Yorkshire's Airedale Hospital.
"I work with some incredible people,” he enthuses. “I really like helping patients in the gym with their exercises. There is a great atmosphere and a tremendous sense of camaraderie. Everyone helps each other.
“I used to work as a social worker and it's great that I have the chance to continue using my skills,” he adds.
Alison – hospice volunteer and Fundraising Ambassador
Alison has been volunteering for our Duchess of Kent Hospice for eight years.
She helps out by speaking to patients and keeping them company, and she is also an official Fundraising Ambassador who fundraises in the Reading community, and organises fun and original events. Some of the best include her long-running ‘frock swap’ evenings, held at her home, where local women donate clothes and trade them with others.
For Alison, the main pleasure of volunteering for Sue Ryder comes from making patients happy.
“This role has brought me enormous pleasure,” she says. “It’s a real privilege to be able to touch patients’ lives. To have listened to their stories over the years has been truly inspirational.”
Alison still has vivid memories of the emotions she felt when she first started at Duchess of Kent.
“I can remember the first time I walked on to the wards on my first day as a volunteer. It was tough because I was faced with an old friend I had known since our school days,” she recalls. “He was very poorly but still mustered the strength to talk and smile about the days when we were young.
“I also remember a lady who was one of my school teachers when I was six years old. I remember telling her how much I enjoyed listening to her read during story time, and she reminisced about how wonderful it was to be a teacher and her recollections of the children she taught.
"I could honestly write a whole book of memories of all the people I have sat with here,” Alison muses.
Rob – handyman and Father Christmas
After a long career working in IT with the civil service, 64-year-old Rob was happy to retire. But it wasn’t long before he missed having any structure to his week.
“A neighbour of mine volunteered at the coffee shop at Thorpe Hall Hospice and mentioned an Open Day for people interested in volunteering,” Rob recalls. “I thought I’d drop in and find out more.”
During the Peterborough-based open day, Rob chatted to members of the Thorpe Hall team about his skills and interests.
“My professional skills are IT-related but I’m also a keen DIYer. I’m always doing bits and pieces around the house,” he says.
He filled in an application form then and there. Weeks later, he arrived for his first volunteering shift with the maintenance team, having made a commitment to work from 9am to 2.30pm, three days a week.
“I’d said I was happy to get involved wherever I was needed,” said Rob. “They got me started straight away working with the support services team, working through the daily log of maintenance jobs that need doing.”
With the inpatient unit to look after and Thorpe Hall mansion house to maintain, the team are constantly busy and Rob has provided a very welcome extra pair of hands.
“There’s always lots to do – screws to tighten, light bulbs to replace, water testing to carry out, faulty equipment to mend,” said Rob. “I had lots of support when I first started – everyone was very friendly and always happy to show me the ropes.”
Rob is always keen to throw himself into other roles too. He also volunteers by driving to the hospital and pharmacy or to pick up food orders for our kitchens from the local supplier, and offers IT support whenever he can.
And for the last two years, he has been moonlighting in an extra-special role as Thorpe Hall’s Father Christmas – a role his white beard lends itself perfectly to!
“I like to think I am making a difference,” says Rob. “It’s such a team effort and I always feel as if what I am doing is appreciated. I feel I am trusted and feel like I’m letting people down if I’m not here so rarely miss a shift!”
Ann – gardener, cook and activities volunteer
Ann has done a number of roles at our Manorlands Hospice, from gardening and activities with patients to getting patient feedback and working in the kitchen.
“I enjoy working with the staff,” she says. “They are so positive and this encourages me and the other volunteers to keep turning up. I like being involved with the patients and hopefully on occasions cheering them up as well!
"I volunteer firstly because I think Manorlands Hospice is a lifeline in more ways than one,” Ann adds. “There is a need to be constantly looking for ways to continue the care and love it gives, and I feel volunteering is so important to keep that going.”
Beverley – service user-turned-volunteer
Beverley has been attending day services at our Cuerden Hall neurological centre in Lancashire for more than a decade. Now she volunteers there to make sure residents' voices are heard.
"I began attending day care services at Cuerden Hall neurological care centre about 12 years ago,” she says. “The difference that this had made to my life is unbelievable; the love, care, help and support that I and my family have received has been life changing.
"I am now living a life rather than just an existence. That is why I decided to be a volunteer: I wanted to give something back,"she explains.
"I am very passionate about helping the Cuerden Hall residents with complex neurological needs to feel more empowered,” continues Bev. “I try to be an ambassador for the organisation to spread the Sue Ryder message to the local community and beyond.
"I’ve started up a discussion group with the residents to get them talking, to help them to open up, to reminisce and to think independently. I love to be a listening ear for residents, family staff and volunteers. I also do one-to-one work with residents, and I love to come up with ideas for fundraising – the wackier the better!" she laughs.
“Volunteering has been the best therapy for me," she concludes. "It has given me a whole new purpose in life and it has taught me to see beyond people’s disabilities. There’s a lot more to our residents than their disability – another message that I am keen to promote in the work I do as a volunteer.”
Bob and John – volunteer drivers
Bob and John work together as drivers for our Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading. This year, Bob is being honoured with an award for five years of service.
Bob has a very personal reason for volunteering with Sue Ryder.
“My wife, Val, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and required end of life care at the hospice,” Bob explains. “The doctors, nurses and staff were wonderful, caring people who not only cared for Val but also provided support and assistance for me at such a difficult time.
“After she died, I felt a need to give something back, not only to the hospice but to the patients who were struggling with their conditions, and their loved ones that needed respite from the daily tasks of caring for them,” he says.
“Driving these patients to the hospice day therapy or to attend appointments with clinicians has given me a great sense of purpose and satisfaction,” Bob smiles. “There is also a major spin-off from volunteering – that is the camaraderie between myself and the other volunteers like John. I have made many friends who I meet up with on a social basis both inside and outside the charity.”
Jasmine – teen superstar
16-year-old Jasmine is one of our youngest regular volunteers at Thorpe Hall Hospice in Cambridgeshire where – week in, week out – she helps out on the inpatient ward.
Described as a “remarkable young lady, very mature, with a wonderful manner and great people skills”, Jasmine regularly goes above and beyond in her mission to brighten patients’ days.
In fact, Jasmine didn’t spend last Christmas Day with her family – instead she chose to come to Thorpe Hall to work alongside staff and other volunteers to ensure patients and their families had the very best Christmas possible.
Could you be our next volunteer?
Being a Sue Ryder volunteer is a great way to gain skills, meet new people or get involved in your local community. It can also be a very meaningful way of giving something back, and helping others to receive hospice and neurological care.
There’s a huge range of roles and we welcome everyone – from young people just starting out in the world of work to individuals with a lifetime of wisdom to share. Every person’s contribution is valued.
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