Our longest serving volunteer – 40 years and counting!
An Arsenal supporter born during the war, grandmother to five, and our longest serving volunteer! As we mark our 40th anniversary, Ann explains what keeps her coming back after four decades of volunteering for us, and she’s not done yet….
It all began in September 1983 when I had a phone call out the blue from the first Volunteer Coordinator at St Catherine’s, right before the hospice opened. She had heard I did the flowers at my church and they were looking for someone to come and arrange the flowers in the hospice, because people staying on the wards could have as many flowers as they wanted. She asked if I’d be happy to help and I said yes!
A few years later, I completed a bereavement visitors course at the hospice and started spending time with people in their own homes who were bereaved, to speak with them and see how they were doing. I also helped with a children’s group once a month for children who had lost a parent or grandparent. We would do activities with the children, so their families had a chance to talk to a member of staff or to other bereaved adults.
All these years on, I’m still in touch with one of those children because I knew her mother through church. She was only six-years-old when I first worked with her and she’s now been through university, she’s got a job and she’s gorgeous!
When the flower rota came to an end in 2001, I did some admin work for the Spiritual Care Team and eventually decided to do a spiritual care course that was run by the Chaplain at the time. Ever since then I’ve been a Spiritual Care Volunteer, visiting individuals staying on the ward.
My role involves sitting listening and talking with people. Spiritual care is all about human interaction and empathy, not sympathy, to listen and talk. I think because I’m a lot older, people are more prepared to talk to me – a little grey haired lady poses no threat!
On one occasion, there was a man who had just arrived at the hospice and he had two adult sons and his wife with him. I introduced myself and offered spiritual care and one of his sons said, “Do you just talk about God?” and I replied, “No, anything from God to football.” So he asked me who I supported and we discussed football – I’ve supported Arsenal since the 1970s. That’s all part of it!
The staff here are like a family to me. I have a church family, a blood family and a hospice family. As I’m a lot older than all of them at the hospice, they are like my children.
I am happy to be the longest serving volunteer at St Catherine’s because I enjoy it and I love meeting people. I keep coming back because I probably get more out if it than they get out of me! I get support and love from the team and it’s good to see different people.
I’m excited about the new hospice when we can all be under one roof together. I visited the site when it was being built, wearing my hard hat and steel toe capped shoes. I’m really looking forward to seeing it again. It will take time to settle-in but the new hospice won’t change the care we give. St Catherine’s has always given people all the care they need. They always have and they always will.
I don’t think I could have predicted that I’d be volunteering 40 years after I first began but I still look forward to coming every Tuesday. I just do a few hours each week now and I always set my alarm clock a little earlier on my volunteering day. I am now 82 but my secret is to think I’m 60 instead – I just think myself young!