Celebrating Volunteers’ Week will be more poignant and meaningful than ever for St Giles Hospice this year as a result of the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.
Although St Giles always uses the annual campaign to give thanks to its army of dedicated volunteers, the 2020 event takes place at a time of unprecedented disruption across the UK.
Many volunteers have been forced to self-isolate or stay at home during the lockdown, while others have stepped up to take on new roles to keep the hospice running.
Amy Moore, Volunteering Development Manager at St Giles Hospice, said: “Our volunteers play a vital role at St Giles Hospice and it’s true to say that we really couldn’t do what we do without them.
“We have 1,300 volunteers who donate up to 6,000 hours a week – a vast and incredibly generous gift of time and service that allows us to keep the hospice running.
“Traditionally we’ve always brought everyone together during Volunteers’ Week for a celebration, and although we can’t bring our volunteers together this year, we still want to thank them for the difference they make and the lives that they touch.
“We want to ensure that all of our volunteers – whether they are able to volunteer at the moment or not – feel thanked and supported too, and to assure them that their efforts will be needed and appreciated more than ever when things return to normal,” she added.
This year, St Giles is encouraging volunteers to decorate handprints as part of its #HandsTogether campaign and send them in to the hospice or upload them to social media pages – along with a few words about what volunteering means to them.
The colourful creations will be used to create a virtual ‘Hands Around the Hospice’ display during the Volunteers’ Week event, to ensure that volunteers and the work they do will have a presence at the hospice even though they may currently be physically distanced from it.
St Giles will also be sharing the stories of its volunteers on social media throughout the week and holding celebrations online using Zoom to let them know they are appreciated.
Volunteers’ Week, organised by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, is held each year between 1st-7th June to celebrate and give thanks for the work of millions of volunteers across the UK.
Volunteers at St Giles Hospice take on a wide range of roles from gardening, working in shops and complementary therapy to ward support, transport and logistics. The hospice attracts volunteers of all ages – from 17-year-old students to pensioners in their 80s.
One longstanding volunteer, 75-year-old Biddy Brough, has supported the hospice since a family member became one of its earliest patients in 1984, and has helped to wash dishes in the St Giles kitchen for the past 33 years.
Student Rhys Thornett, aged 17, who hopes to follow a career in healthcare, volunteers on the hospice reception desk – a role that has given him both vital work experience and a sense of purpose and inspiration.
Both are currently having to stay at home because of the Coronavirus restrictions, but some volunteers are still able to support the hospice during the lockdown.
These include Jayne Graham (56), who has swapped helping day hospice visitors and volunteering on reception for supporting staff in the Inpatient Unit. Now her volunteering days are spent helping patients on the ward, carrying out vital practical tasks and helping patients to keep in contact with relatives at a time when face-to-face hospice visits can be more difficult.
The contribution that volunteers make to the hospice has won the gratitude of staff and patients alike at St Giles.
Volunteer drivers clock up more than 62,480 miles each year on the road when they are collecting patients and families, going on medicine runs and performing other tasks, with the transport team covering an average of 900-1,200 miles each week.
Back in the office, lottery volunteers open more than 15,000 raffle responses and process 150,000 tickets every year, with the raffle raising around £170,000 towards funding the services St Giles offers to people living with terminal or incurable illnesses.
Amy added: “We are always looking for new volunteers and are actively encouraging people who may be interested to still get in touch with us. We are holding virtual volunteering open sessions via Zoom where you can find out more and be inspired by the stories of our wonderful volunteers.”