Celebrating our volunteers for International Volunteer Day

What comes to mind then when you think of a ‘volunteer’? Handing out care packages to the homeless, a helping hand in a care home, or even building awareness of a worthy cause? Here at St Paul’s Eye Unit, we have several volunteers who are crucial in supporting us and we want to celebrate them this International Volunteer Day. 

Why volunteer?

Volunteering gives people the chance to give something back. Whether it’s sharing skills and knowledge with an organisation or giving up free time to help out a charity. Also playing an active role in society can help to break down social barriers, offering people an opportunity to socialise with those from different social and cultural backgrounds.

Our volunteers

Carol Brackley, age 64 from Halewood, retired four years ago and began volunteering with us once a week in September 2019. She tells us why she decided to start volunteering:

“I’d been looking after my husband for a couple of years until he passed away last year and I wanted to fill my time with something meaningful. I didn’t want to go back to my old job because it was too much pressure, and I was in the fortunate position where I didn’t have to, but I wanted to do something with my time.

“My husband had been looked after in the Royal Liverpool University Hospital so I decided to try volunteering. I help in the Outpatients Department in the morning, mainly taking patients to different areas around the hospital. Quite often the patients haven’t been here before and aren’t sure where to go, or might be visually impaired, so it’s nice for them to have a friendly person to escort them to where they need to be, especially if they are a little nervous.

“In the afternoon I work on the day ward, making cups of tea and toast or preparing tea and biscuits for patients that have had surgery. As volunteers, we’re busy, but we’re able to spend a little extra time with someone who has just received bad news, or is feeling lost or upset. Small gestures can make all the world of difference to how a patient is feeling, and that’s what makes it so rewarding.

“I feel like I’m part of the team at St Paul’s, everyone is always glad to see you, it’s a very inclusive and friendly environment. It’s worthwhile knowing that you’ve done something that helps people, it keeps you busy if you have some spare time and it’s a really friendly environment so you meet lots of people.”

20 year old Emily King is a student at the University of Liverpool and began volunteering with us in September 2019. As her first time volunteering, she tells us why she wanted to be involved:

“I wanted to do something that was different. I’d never done any volunteering, but I love chatting to people and talking about their day and lots of people in hospital aren’t here by choice, which can make them unhappy. By having a conversation it can help improve their day and make their experience much more comfortable.

“Working in Outpatients, I take patients to appointments and places they need to be, like up to imaging, which can be hard to get to if they don’t know where they’re going. If they are a bit stressed or apprehensive, I’ll sit with them and have a chat to reassure them. Some patients are grateful for the company and conversation because sometimes they’re apprehensive or a bit lonely.

Volunteer, Emily, being briefed by one of our nurses
Volunteer, Emily, being briefed by one of our nurses

“Volunteering at St Paul’s makes me feel like I’m making a difference. People always seem happy that I’m helping, especially if they’re going through a difficult time or need a bit of extra support. There was one elderly lady in clinic who had recently had a fall and lost her confidence in walking around on her own, so when I took her to have a scan she was so appreciative that I was able to walk with her and help her. I even helped her into her taxi home, and it made me feel really good knowing I’d made her life easier and a positive difference.

“The nurses are so busy, they don’t have the time to take patients to and from where they need to be, and that’s where a volunteer’s role is really important. I think more people should volunteer. When I speak to friends, they’re put off because they don’t know anything about medicine, but you don’t need to, you just need to be able to say, “Hi, how are you?”. It's something so easy that can improve someone’s day massively.

“If you are thinking of volunteering, go for it, you can guarantee it can brighten your mood. I’ll have days where things go wrongs, but volunteering always makes me feel loads better, it’s interesting to meet people and hear their stories - I find it inspiring. 

“My course in anatomy and human biology is very science based, and I like to understand people and patient interaction, and it’s now what I’d like to do in the future.”

Myrddin Joseph Hands, 23 from Wavertree, has been volunteering with us one day a week since February 2019. After an impressive 10 years of volunteers, Myrrddin tells us why St Paul’s is different:

“It’s really interesting helping out at St Paul’s Eye Unit, eyes are so precious and the work that goes on here is fascinating. I like helping people and seeing the smiles of those who need a bit of extra support, it’s a good thing to do.

“I do a lot of clerical work, dealing with patient files. Small jobs free up the time of the doctors and nurses who can then spend more time with patients. St Paul’s definitely recognise me as one of their own and it’s fulfilling to know that I’m helping.

“Volunteering is a really rewarding experience, it’s interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes in a hospital instead of seeing it from the viewpoint of a patient, learning about the history and meeting people from all walks of life.”

If you’re thinking about volunteering, get in touch with our team on email volunteer1@rlbuht.nhs.uk or by phone 0151 706 3170.