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Giving the gift of time this Christmas

Every year, at St Catherine’s Hospice, we’re lucky to be supported by more than 840 volunteers, including 51 year old Dawn Williams. This year, Dawn is volunteering on Christmas Day. Here she explains why she chooses to volunteer with us at Christmas.

“I’ve always worked in a high powered environment, mainly in banks. I know there’s more to life than the office though and I started to volunteer with St Catherine’s because I wanted to see a different side of life. I’ve been volunteering for just under 20 years now, and for the last five, I’ve also volunteered on Christmas Day.

Volunteering at Christmas is really special

It’s tradition now. I prepare Christmas dinner in the morning and then come to St Catherine’s to do the afternoon tea trolley. My free time is precious, and I usually spend it doing chores or catching up with family and friends, but for me, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without doing a round on the hospice tea trolley. My husband helps me too. At first, he wasn’t sure what to expect but St Catherine’s isn’t anything like he thought it’d be. It isn’t a sad place. It’s always cheerful and even at Christmas, it lifts people’s spirits.

As soon as you arrive on Christmas Day, you feel the festive spirit through the wards. Every year, patients are served a traditional dinner on a decorated tray with a menu, cracker, bottle of champagne and chocolates in specially made festive boxes. There’s also a free sweet table in the main lounge area for visitors, bucks fizz is served, and Santa delivers presents to patients. Last year, the nurses on the night shift bought each patient a new blanket so when we arrived on Christmas Day, there were new blankets on all the beds. It’s kindness like that which makes St Catherine’s stand out.

It’s beautifully decorated too

Twinkling lights glitter on trees in the lounge and on the wards. Some of the trees are also adorned with silver stars that people have hung in memory of their loved ones at the hospice’s Tree of Light service earlier in the month. There’s also decorated trees in the garden so patients can see a tree from their beds.

Over the years I’ve seen some really special moments

Once, a visiting relative who was a professional pianist, was playing classical and pop music on the piano in the communal lounge. He was amazing, and people were being wheeled in their beds to the lounge to listen. Another time, I was chatting to a gentleman about chocolate as I was serving him some cake. The next day, I bought him some champagne truffles. When I gave them to him he took my hand and said: “That’s the kindest thing anyone’s ever done for me.” I didn’t know him, and it was such a small thing but it made him so happy.

I always enjoy chatting to the different people I meet and it amazes me how pleasant people are, even though they’re in the hardest situation. People always have time to say please and thank you and they’re so grateful for what you’re doing.

There’s one particular moment that’s always stayed with me

During one shift, I was serving a gentleman with a tracheostomy tube a cup of tea. He couldn’t speak so communicated via an electronic keypad. After I’ve served him he accidentally knocked his tea over. I said “don’t worry”, cleared it up and made him another cup. As I was getting ready to go, he grabbed my hands and typed out, ever so carefully, “sorry and thank you.” To him it was really important, despite the effort, that he thanked me before I left.

Volunteering at the hospice makes me feel really lucky about my own life and I wouldn’t be without it. St Catherine’s is really well thought of in the local community and I’m proud to play my part in that, not just at Christmas but all year round.”

If you would like to find out more about volunteering with us, click here or call 01293 447351.

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