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“It’s shown me a better way of dealing with death” – Ellie’s Story

As part of national Student Volunteering Week, Ellie Davis, 18, from Horsham shares why she gives up her time to volunteer at St Catherine’s.

“I’ve been volunteering as a coffee shop assistant at St Catherine’s Hospice since April 2017. I work part-time in a local coffee shop so when I saw the volunteer role I thought it would suit my skills.

I serve drinks and cakes or sandwiches to patients, their families, friends, and visitors. I enjoy talking to different people and providing them with a good service. St Catherine’s is a really nice place. You’re always around different people, feel part of something special and can see the difference you’re making. Everyone at the hospice is positive and helpful and I’ve been surprised at how much generosity there is with patients and their families.

Volunteering with St Catherine’s has also changed how I see other people. I’m much more aware of others’ feelings now and of how I talk to people. I need to be sensitive to what people are dealing with here and I try to remember that I don’t always know someone’s whole story. I treat people the way I’d want to be treated. In particular, I always remember a man who visited the coffee shop whilst he was waiting for his counselling sessions. One day we started chatting. We talked about clothes before he told me about his wife who’d died at St Catherine’s. One day a member of St Catherine’s clinical team popped in to see me. They told me the gentleman had mentioned that he really rated our conversations. He’d told them he could talk to me about his wife and that had a difference. That really meant something to me.

I’m planning to go to university to study medicine as I want to be a doctor so volunteering here gives me valuable experience and has already helped with my university applications. Death is something we all have to deal with but the hospice is a good environment to face it. It’s not a morbid place, it’s lovely. It’s actually shown me a better way of dealing with death. St Catherine’s whole approach of trying to fulfil people’s wishes has impacted on my life. I now try and make things happen. I’m much more about finding solutions and I think that’s something that will really help me in future.

When you’re young you haven’t had many life or work experiences and I think before you start making your own life choices it’s important to consider volunteering to get experiences that you wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise. Volunteering doesn’t have to be a huge commitment either. It can be just a few hours that help to give you an idea of what might be right for you. It’s a good use of your time and it feels great!

I know for some students a hospice might seem an unusual place to volunteer. When I first started I was wary. I thought St Catherine’s would be too sad but it’s been a nice surprise that it’s not. Patients get to spend time with their family and are supported to do that, and everyone works to make end of life the best it can be. That’s really special.”

If you would like to find out more about volunteering click here or call the Volunteering Team on 01293 447351.

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