At Wigan and Leigh Hospice volunteers are the backbone of our service working in almost every aspect of our charity’s care including the ward, kitchen, reception, bereavement support and facilities.
There are also those performing vital tasks in income generation – working in our shops, in online sales or with the fundraising team.
People begin volunteering for many reasons. Many initially come to us because the hospice has helped someone they were close to and they want to give something back.
Every time, they end up getting something out of it too.
Volunteering is vital to us and to other charities but it also has a hugely positive effect on wellbeing.
As Volunteer Coordinator to around 600 volunteers I regularly hear from our volunteers just how important their role is to them.
Some people come to us grieving following a bereavement. Volunteering gives them a new routine and a purpose.
One volunteer I spoke to who had recently lost her husband told me that her role gave her a focus, something to aim for and helped her to deal with her loss.
For people struggling with mental health volunteering can offer structure, support and simply an opportunity to get out of the house. At the same time they can learn new skills, meet people from all walks of life and work in a friendly environment.
For those who have retired it means that although they are not working any more they can still keep their minds and bodies active.
Unfortunately during the pandemic many have been unable to volunteer. One of our volunteer drivers, who has been able to continue coming into the hospice building to support us, says it has kept him going. Volunteering has offered structure and he has been able to maintain a social side of his life in spite of everything going on in the world.
There are some volunteers for who volunteering is a real lifeline. To have that taken away during the pandemic has been really hard for them. They are used to being part of a team, helping others and feeling worthwhile as a result and suddenly there is a huge gap. Fortunately, many of our volunteers are returning to their roles now.
Linda Owen, who volunteers on our reception, is one of those volunteers who has just returned to her role. She said: “Volunteering enables you to mix with others and make a worthwhile contribution. You can use your existing skills or learn new skills and it can counteract feelings of loneliness, anxiety or stress.
“It gives a purpose to the week. I like the social side and have been very lucky working with Gill and Marg on reception for many years. I like talking to people who come through the door and it’s company too, especially if you live on your own.”