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Your Experience survey

If you have used our Hospice's services, please consider taking some time to inform us of your experience.

Volunteers’ Week 2022: Steve

Steve Smith, Hospice Neighbour and Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy volunteer:
I started volunteering for the Hospice around nine years ago when I became a Hospice Neighbour. I saw an advert, and having always had an interest in the Hospice movement, I wanted to find out more. The core values of the hospice movement have always interested me.

After retiring, it wasn’t that I needed to find something to do. That certainly wasn’t a problem, but after a working life mostly running my own business, which often meant meeting and engaging with people from different backgrounds, I still wanted that to continue. I went along to a coffee morning in Moreton Hall, and it just grew from there. I had some initial training, and that and further training has equipped me with the necessary skills I needed.

Then about three years ago, I approached Sharon and expressed an interest in joining the Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy Team. Sharon suggested a book that I should read and told me to return after I had finished if I still wanted to volunteer. I read the book, which was a powerful one, and when I had finished, I went back to Sharon and told her I did want to volunteer.

Both of the roles are so varied. As a Hospice Neighbour, you come into contact with so many people from different backgrounds, who have all had different experiences. You have to be comfortable and able to speak to a variety of people, which is the same for chaplaincy. The roles do complement one another. Being able to have conversations is part and parcel of both roles. Being able to listen and provide support as well.

They are roles I enjoy, roles I value and particularly, the two-way relationship between the person I am supporting and myself. This connection is fundamental. We are invited into people’s lives, we have conversations often very private and at times difficult ones, and we talk and listen to one another. I always find that after speaking to someone, you can always find a common interest. It might not be obvious at first. It might seem like people are from completely different backgrounds, with different views, but there is usually something that you share.

The sheer diversity of life is reflected in those I have supported. I’ve spoken to gardeners, garage owners, one gentleman was in the Arctic convoys during the Second World War and had been awarded a special medal by the Russian government, people of all different backgrounds, all with their own stories and experiences and speaking to them is enjoyable for me, they let me into their homes, and I spend time talking to them and listening to what is important to them. It is humbling that someone will let you in at the most difficult time of their life. A time when they don’t really know what is going to happen, what the future may hold. It is a challenge and a privilege to be alongside these people, who need that little boost to their confidence to be able to face the next few weeks, months or sometimes years, and I hope I help people find the positive in the time they have. I am fortunate that my role allows me to do that. All human life is here to be valued and cherished.

I do much prefer to speak to people face-to-face as having that contact can be invaluable when trying to build a relationship with people, those are the most fruitful, the most powerful conversations, but I have been able to adapt my role. I am pleased that I have been able to do that so I can keep on supporting the people I do. As part of my chaplaincy role, I speak to the shop managers over the phone, and I really enjoy that. I hope for them it is a chance to unload and speak about any challenges they have.

Covid has meant that we haven’t been able to spend time together as a team in the same way. We’ve kept up with Zoom calls and phone calls, but I have missed that contact. The Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy Team have recently met in person, which felt positive.

I volunteer for the Hospice because I want to, I enjoy it, and I get a buzz out of doing it. Being able to volunteer is a privilege. It is an often-used cliché, but it is true. I volunteer because I want to make a difference.