Volunteers in Northern Ireland tell their stories

13th December 2018 | by Various

The Western Health and Social Care Trust has a positive attitude to volunteers and the principle of volunteering. Volunteers play a key part in many areas of our Hospitals and undertake a multitude of different roles where they support patients/visitors/staff alike.  Social action is about the value to the volunteer, but it also has to be about the impact they make through giving their time.

Two WHSCT volunteers recently received BEM Honours:

Mrs Gabrielle Deans is a lady who has always been a volunteer in some guise, but since retirement has immersed herself into giving to her local community through volunteering.  Since 2013 her role at Altnagelvin Area Hospital is to meet and greet/signpost those arriving at the very busy Out-Patients Department.  Gabrielle extended her volunteering time to include a role in the NW Cancer Centre and has become a mentor assisting with training new volunteers.

Gabrielle openly says that her roles at the Hospital give purpose to her day, and allows social interaction and the chance to chat to people and to reminisce.  Gabrielle has shared that she gets a great sense of fulfilment from her voluntary work and the opportunity to meet and work with new and different people.  She often says “every day is a school day – there is a lot still to learn”.

Ms Margaret Marley is a retired Vice-Principal (local Primary School) where she had given many years of dedicated teaching and management to the school community. She commenced her volunteer role in 2012 as a befriender in a local Residential Care Home; she assists staff in craft sessions, storytelling and shopping trips. Margaret extended her volunteering to attend Altnagelvin Area Hospital to meet and greet/signpost those arriving at the very busy Out-Patients Department – she enjoys her role so much that she now attends 2 sessions per week!  She is a lady who quickly picks-up on the needs of others so it has made her a very valuable asset to our volunteering team.  The Trust link with Action Mental Health (AMH), a local organisation, to facilitate supported volunteer placements; she has become a champion of supported volunteers and a key mentor. The following is feedback from an AMH Manager,  “Since Margaret started her supported volunteering at the Hospital in May 2016 she feels she has come a long way as dealing with the public has enabled her to rebuild her confidence and self-esteem. She has made a great friendship with the other volunteer whom she is with on a Thursday and thoroughly enjoys carrying out her role  – she feels good about now being in a position to help others”.

Both often accompany the ‘unsure’ to the area which they are attending and set them at ease as best they can. Both attend faithfully each week and make very valuable contributions to the patient/visitor experience. They have very warm personalities and are great communicators which make them extremely popular with patients/visitors and staff alike. They are very professional in their approach and are great advocates for our Organisation. They both attend any training offered by the Trust that is relevant and say this better equips them to undertake their roles, eg. Dementia Friendly Training, Disability Awareness, Blind and Deaf Awareness training.

Our volunteers are from the local communities and often have the trust and understanding needed to engage people and they provide valuable support to paid professionals.   We are indebted to all our volunteers – their simple acts of kindness and compassion are the golden thread that runs through the tapestry of Services offered by the WHSCT.  The contribution of all our volunteers is often commented on and their involvement is truly appreciated.