Volunteering with Sue Ryder - can Father Christmas change lightbulbs?

Volunteer Rob Isaac as Father Christmas

After a long career working in IT with the civil service, Rob Isaac was happy to say goodbye to working nine-to-five in a ‘thankless job’. But it wasn’t long before he missed having any structure to his week.

“I needed some routine to my week,” said Rob. “A neighbour of mine volunteered at the coffee shop at Thorpe Hall and mentioned an Open Day for people interested in volunteering. I thought I’d drop in and find out more.” 

During the Open Day, Rob, a married dad of two and granddad of three, chatted to members of the Thorpe Hall team about his skills and interest. 

“My professional skills are IT-related but I’m also a keen DIYer. I’m always doing bits and pieces around the house.” 

From IT to lighting

The 64 year old 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.” 

Can Father Christmas change lightbulbs?

Rob is always keen to throw himself into other roles. He also volunteers by driving to the hospital and pharmacy or to pick up food orders for our kitchens from the local supplier. 

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! 

However, he hasn't completely left his old life behind him as he often helps with IT issues and supports our fundraising team. He is also now so knowledgable that he has moved up the ranks and when the maintenance lead isn’t here, Rob now covers for him. 

Rob said: “I like to think I am making a difference. 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! 

“Of course it can be difficult sometimes volunteering in a hospice. One of the first things I noticed was that patients you chat to may not still be here next time you come in. That can be strange but then I know I’m part of a team making a difference to them for that short time.”

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