Heather Stratton from Pluckley near Ashford has generously given her time as a volunteer for more than 16 years.
Over the years she’s played several important support roles for Pilgrims Therapy Centre, and also on the hospice wards as a patient-facing volunteer alongside the Health Care Assistants.
Heather said: “When we moved to the area in 2002, I had already retired from my working life. We were attending a cream tea at our local church where I met a Pilgrims Hospices nurse and we chatted about the work they do for the local community. I was immediately interested and decided to investigate how I could help in a volunteer role. Since then I’ve never looked back.
“After making an application and meeting some members of the Pilgrims team, I was accepted as a volunteer and spent several very happy years in the Therapy Centre supporting patients who travelled from home for regular treatments and support at the hospice site.
“In 2011, I joined the newly launched Ashford hospice ‘Buddy’ programme; designed to train volunteers to achieve skills enabling them to work in a supporting role in the Therapy Centre, and on the ward. On completion of my training, I continued volunteering in the Therapy Centre, then in 2014 I transferred to the ward, assisting the HCAs with the patients’ personal care, feeding, moving and handling and psycho-social care. I am also required to complete the annual e-learning and mandatory moving and handling training provided by Pilgrims.”
I’m missing my regular visits to the hospice, it has been a strange world for the past year without my friends at Pilgrims.
As time has progressed, Pilgrims has reviewed and adapted the Buddy role and we are now excited to launch the new Ward Support Volunteer role. These trained volunteers will support the teams at all three of our hospices and will be an integral part of the team supporting patients and their loved ones on the wards. Annie Hogben, Expert Volunteer Development Lead at Pilgrims hopes to encourage many more people to become part of this very important team.
Annie told us: “We as a team have taken time during this challenging year to review our volunteer roles and want to ensure that all our volunteers understand why their skills and support is vital to us going forward. We want our dedicated volunteers to feel fully equipped with the skills and knowledge required, especially when supporting patients on our wards.”
Heather has not returned to her volunteer role on the ward as yet due to current restrictions. Every precaution is still in place to ensure everyone remains safe and well.
I’m just helping to give care and support to people who are entering the final phase of their life, so that they may feel loved and cared for in their final journey, in an atmosphere of peace and dignity.
Heather added: “I usually volunteer for a full day shift each week and I’m always happy to do more to help if needed. I’m missing my regular visits to the hospice, it has been a strange world for the past year without my friends at Pilgrims.
“I’m often asked why I volunteer at the hospice, and is it a very sad place to be? It really is quite the opposite, it’s a happy, vibrant, positive place, full of extremely talented and knowledgeable care professionals who are making a huge difference to those who need end-of-life care.
“Myself, I look upon the end stage of life just the same as the beginning and middle, a very normal, if poignant part of the cycle of life. I’m just helping to give care and support to people who are entering the final phase of their life, so that they may feel loved and cared for in their final journey, in an atmosphere of peace and dignity.
“A few years ago I was talking to an elderly lady who was sitting at her husband’s bedside. She addressed me as ‘Sister’, so I explained that I was not the Sister but a volunteer carer. She replied, ‘but you’re a sister to me.”
“These words I have, and always will, treasure.”
Inspired to become a Pilgrims’ volunteer?
Visit pilgrimshospices.org/volunteer and look out for more stories and information throughout Volunteers’ Week!
Volunteers’ Week is a chance to say thank you for the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK. It takes place 1-7 June every year and is an opportunity to celebrate volunteering in all its diversity.
We’re accredited by REVAMP, a quality mark for Volunteer Involving Organisations developed by Stronger Kent Communities, a leading provider of support for the voluntary sector in Kent.