“Volunteering at St Catherine’s Hospice is an important cornerstone of my own life and I am a far better person for it.”
For the last three years, Ian has been volunteering in our Day Hospice where he runs a quiz for the patients. Here, Ian talks about how he began his volunteering journey why St Catherine’s means so much to him:
“A few years ago a friend from work spent his last days at St Catherine’s and I visited him a few times. I had never been to a hospice before and did not know what to expect. However I was amazed. From the moment I walked into the entrance and received a cheery greeting from the receptionists I was struck by the overwhelming feeling of warmth, calmness and love. The staff are like angels and so devoted to making the patients as comfortable as possible.
I was so moved by the way my friend was treated with such loving care that it made me want to do something in return to say thank you. I had recently retired after a career as a Solicitor so it was the ideal opportunity to volunteer.
I contacted the hospice to see what volunteering opportunities they had but was not sure what relevant skills I had to offer. I have no clinical or medical experience, and didn’t want to be office based as I’d spent most of my career behind a desk. However I love playing board games and cards, so put the idea to St Catherine’s that I could visit and entertain patients while they visited the Day Hospice. Sylvie from the Day Hospice team suggested that I start off with a quiz to see how I got on and I have been doing them ever since!
I visit St Catherine’s every few weeks with my pre-prepared quiz. I vary the content with some general knowledge and some more themed questions which could be anything from 70’s TV shows to Christmas during the festive season. Often the staff join in too! Some of the patients, visiting for the first time, are understandably nervous at first but they soon come out of their shell and fully participate. The quizzes are great conversation starters and the patients can often reflect on happy memories while they’re taking part. The whole idea is to have fun. The quizzes are totally relaxed events and I gauge their success on how much time we have spent laughing which is usually a lot! I always leave after the quiz on a high knowing that I’ve brought a little happiness and a comic relief to people and had great fun myself.
I really look forward to coming to St Catherine’s to do my quizzes. It’s such a bright, cheerful and pleasant environment.
They are all wonderful and interesting people. I feel privileged that they are willing to spend their time with me. One memory that will always stick out is from my first Christmas spent with St Catherine’s: I do a fun festive quiz and bring a sack of presents to distribute. After my first Christmas I received a letter from the daughter of a patient I had met. She said that her Mum had really treasured the small prize she had chosen in my lucky dip as if it had been a bar of gold. Sadly her Mum had passed away in the New Year but her daughter had kindly written to thank me for the small gesture I had made that had put a smile on her mother’s face. I have framed the letter and put it on my wall as it means so much to me.
Volunteering at St Catherine’s Hospice is an important cornerstone of my own life and I am a far better person for it. My involvement helps me keep my own life in perspective. It has improved my judgement of what is important in my own life and what is not. It helps me empathise with people I meet better, to be more understanding and patient and to count my blessings. My time at St Catherine’s has exceeded all my expectations and I feel as though I’m part of a family.”