Why volunteering is so worthwhile

Aoife O’Driscoll, 17, from Crawley, volunteers every Friday in the coffee shop at St Catherine’s Hospice. She shares her experience during Student Volunteering Week.

I first thought about volunteering for St Catherine’s Hospice last summer instead of applying for summer jobs. Although I’m not interested in a medical career, I love helping people and giving back to my community, so volunteering at the hospice really appealed to me. The hospice is in my local area and I realised how simple yet rewarding it’d be for me to get involved. 

I started volunteering as a coffee shop assistant in September 2019 and it’s now an important part of my week. I knew that everyone would be friendly before I started but the extraordinary level of kindness that I’ve seen from everyone at the hospice has surprised me. All of the staff and volunteers go above and beyond, and are some of the nicest people I’ve known. A lot of people I speak to know someone who has spent time in St Catherine’s, and their reaction is always positive, I think mostly due to the incredibly warm and open atmosphere that’s created at the hospice. 

For me, the best thing about volunteering is being able to help people in a way which is simple, yet will hopefully make their day a bit better – even a slice of cake and a cup of tea can cheer someone up, and I love being able to help provide that.

Read more: Volunteering can help build your skills and confidence

I volunteer with people of all ages which is something I really value. As I’m mostly with people my own age at school it’s been good to meet people of different ages. I learn so much from them and it’s fascinating to hear people’s life stories. Volunteering has taught me that everyone has something to offer from their skills and experiences, and the power of reaching out to support others. People have offered help and guidance when I’ve not known what to do in the coffee shop, and from the start I’ve seen this sentiment reflected throughout the hospice. 

I’ll always remember my first time working a training shift in the coffee shop. A family had gathered to celebrate a patient’s birthday, and I was overwhelmed by the happiness of the group in what could have been sad circumstances. Seeing that, along with the involvement of the nurses and coffee shop, gave me an insight into the community that’s built at St Catherine’s.

I’ve learnt so many things whilst volunteering and the experience has been so worthwhile. It’s changed the way I view and treat others, and has made me consider working for a charity in the future. I feel like I’ve been given a new understanding of the need for us to always look out for and care for each other. 

Whilst volunteering at a hospice can seem challenging, and sometimes is, it’s also one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. The work is so fulfilling and the experience I’ve gained is unbeatable. I’d definitely recommend volunteering to anyone interested! 

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined myself volunteering at St Catherine’s but it’s not just medical. There are so many ways you can help out, contribute and make a difference.

If you or someone you know, would be interested in volunteering for your local hospice please contact Rosie in St Catherine’s Volunteering Team on 01293 447351 or email: volunteering@stch.org.uk 

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