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Speciality of the month – volunteering
To coincide with Volunteers Week (1-7 June) we are looking at a few of the volunteers based at the Trust. On the last day we feature Synodia Chokuwamba who she has taken up volunteering as a way to improve her English and learn about British history and culture.
Synodia is originally from Zimbabwe and has been a volunteer at UHCW for just over a year. Since becoming a permanent resident of the UK she has taken up volunteering as a way to improve her English and learn about British history and culture. She used to volunteer as a children’s play assistant, keeping children company in the absence of visitors. Now she volunteers with older patients, going to the hospital on Wednesdays to visit patients on the ward.
“I help to lift people’s spirits and make sure they aren’t lonely. They really appreciate someone taking the trouble to ask how they are, and they say that it means so much to them that they are befriended by someone who isn’t paid” she said.
“For me the most rewarding thing is feeling I belong - being part of the hospital community. Also I learn so much from meeting new people and hearing about their lives. Volunteering has helped me to discover who I am.”
Chris has been volunteering as a presenter for Rugby Hospital Radio at UHCW’s Hospital of St Cross for eleven years. A resident of Rugby himself, Chris presents the requests programme on a Thursday, where he collects requests from patients, and also has an active role on the hospital radio committee. Chris is visually impaired, but this has never stood in the way of him getting involved – in fact, it was over a decade ago, while on holiday, that Chris had a chance meeting with a fellow hospital radio presenter and first heard about the opportunity to volunteer.
For Chris, the most rewarding part of the job is the interaction with patients when visiting the wards to collect requests and the opportunity to hear about their progress.
Chris has always been an avid music-lover, and finds chatting with patients about their tastes in music one of the highlights. He said that among the more unusual requests he had received was for the First Cut is the Deepest by Rod Stewart, and also an 80 year old grandmother who asked for Lady Gaga! “I can see that the conversations I have make all the difference to the patients,” said Chris.
“The programme helps to relieve the boredom that can go with being in hospital and the requests mean that the patients have something to look forward to”.
“I’ve found that volunteering is educational, broadens your horizons and can be very rewarding. People may have preconceptions about what the work involves but they won’t know what its like until they try it out, and in no time they can be hooked!”
Download the podcast to hear Chris talking about how much he enjoys volunteering.
Ann has Muscular Dystrophy, which affects the movement in her arms and legs; however, in spite of this she volunteers at University Hospital. Ann has been involved with the hospital for over 18 months, dividing her time between being a dementia buddy and children’s play assistant. She has taken a six-week course on dementia, she has gained an NVQ in Dementia Awareness which she can put to good use at UHCW.
Ann loves volunteering, saying it stops her feeling lonely and makes her grateful for what she has in life. She meets all manner of people from all backgrounds, and considers it a privilege to meet patients and hear about their lives.
Speaking about her experiences in the role, Ann said: “It’s rewarding to see how much people appreciate my company, but it can be difficult not to get too emotionally involved. However, the highs far outweigh the lows”.
Vandana volunteers in the Quality and Patient Safety department of University Hospital, Coventry. She has a marketing background and qualifications, and is currently looking for a paid position, and sees her voluntary role at the Trust as a way to boost her confidence and add to her skills to improve her job prospects.
Vandana’s role involves data handling and administration, helping her to develop her knowledge of IT and understand more about working in an NHS setting.
“The recession made me realise that I needed to broaden my experience and skills in order to get the kind of job I’m looking for”, Vandana said. Volunteering at UHCW has been a rewarding way to do this whilst doing my bit for the community. I would recommend it to anyone”.
Brian has a number of different voluntary roles at the Hospital of St Cross including being involved with the Friends of St Cross, reading to blind patients and working on the helpdesk. He is also part of the Helping Hands initiative, which involves going into the operating theatre with patients having eye surgery to hold their hands during the procedure. He alerts the surgeon if they need to cough or move so that the operation can be paused for a moment.
Eye operations are usually on a Tuesday, which means Brian has a busy schedule on that day. However, in spite of being 72, Brian very much enjoys his role. He feels he can relate well to the patients because they see him as ‘one of them’. He helps to reassure them and dispel any myths - for example, one lady was terrified because she thought her eyes would be taken out and put back as part of the operation.
Brian enjoys putting patients at their ease by joking with them before they go in. “The ladies often remark that it’s the first time their hand has been held in years, and I always tell the men that I won’t let on that I’ve held their hand if I see them in the street!” he jokes.
Below is a clip of Brian talking about his volunteering role at the Hospital of St Cross.
How do I become a Volunteer?
University Hospital Voluntary Services– Contact the office on 024 76965146/7
UHCW Charity – Contact the office on 024 76966913
Friends of the Hospital of St Cross – Contact the office on 01788 663754
Rugby Hospital Radio – Contact the studio on 01788 545271
Interested in volunteering at University Hospital? Please complete the application form and return it to the freepost address provided at the top of the form.