−−− BY LINZI DAVIES −−−
The New Year is a time when people reflect on their lives. Many of you will make resolutions including the annual diet or fitness regime, but have you ever thought of making a resolution to help improve the lives of others? Many worthwhile organisations around our region are always in need of volunteers, and there are a variety of roles available to suit your skills, interests and availability. People who volunteer tell us that they are happier in their own lives as a result, and that they get as much out of the experience as those who they help.
If you are interested in volunteering this New Year and making a difference, we have several organisations in need of your help!
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
LTHT really value the improvement that volunteers can make to patient experience during their hospital stay. There are lots of different opportunities and all roles are non-clinical but mainly patient facing. Whether you want to volunteer at Chapel Allerton, Leeds Children’s Hospital, LGI, Seacroft, St James’s or Wharfedale, you can make a difference.
Geoff and Maureen Craven volunteer in the Patient Library at St James’s. Geoff said, “My wife Maureen has been involved for 13 years following her heart attack which meant retiring from teaching. As a result, I took early retirement from my sales job. She persuaded me to join and we both enjoy the involvement of meeting and talking to the various patients in the wards that we cover. Currently we visit both the Gledhow and Lincoln wings of the hospital and we provide free of charge books, magazines and the Yorkshire Reporter. During recent months we now have 2 new volunteers Lorna Sykes and John Henshaw, but we would love to welcome others to help too. Anyone joining us would get suitable training in the role and would enjoy the experience and satisfaction it brings. Additional volunteers would be really valuable as we would love to increase availability from the couple of mornings a week that we currently do and are also hoping to extend the service to the Bexley Wing.”
Lorna commented, “I worked in the NHS for 30 years and retired 4 years ago, and have been a volunteer for the last 2 years at St James Hospital, recently I’ve been working with the Patient Library team. The Patient Library at the moment only goes to the Lincoln and Gledhow wings but we are hoping to include the Bexley Wing, supplying patients with papers, books and magazines. At the moment we are a small team of 4 volunteers and can only do two to three mornings a week, so if you know anybody who would like to volunteer a morning or afternoon going round the wards chatting and having a laugh with patients please get in touch with Patient Experience at St James’s Hospital you would love the experience. Please come and help us.”
John added, “I first saw an advert in the Daily Mail for volunteers to help out in the NHS. As I had been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer several years ago and received such an excellent service from diagnosis to operation and recovery, I thought it would be a good idea to put something back hence the volunteering. I have been doing it now for several weeks and find it most rewarding helping in the Library and dispensing books to patients around the hospital who have no one and are pleased to see you. Even having a small chat brightens up their day.”
Another volunteer at LTHT is Heather Parker who is a Chemo Chum. She said, “I volunteer in the Chemo Suite, situated in Bexley Wing, St. James’s Hospital (affectionately known as Jimmy’s) part of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
“I was so impressed as a previous patient that I now volunteer as a Chemo Chum! At a time when I was at my most vulnerable, the staff took great care of me. I had every confidence in my emergency team, even if sometimes, I didn’t have much in myself. They cared for me, kept me informed, and supported me weekly for 16 weeks. I am still a Cancer patient; still being monitored, I believe in helping others to help themselves. I had an excellent experience in the unit; I also want everyone else to, that’s why I came up with “Chemo Chum”.
“As patients, we are advised to rid ourselves of as much negative stress as possible. This is “as important” as any treatment we receive. Not quite important, but “as important!” This is at a time when we all experience a whole new wave of stress.
“I decided to be a Chemo Chum; assisting my fellow patients as they receive their own individual treatment; chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapy. I coach patients, but I also give them someone to talk to, share with, play games with, and also be their arms and legs whilst they are hooked up to their chemo chair having their treatment. I can do the little things that the team can’t do as their whole function is to keep us all safe. The average treatment time is about 4 hours, sometimes with a Cooling Cap set at -6 degrees. Mine was 7½ or 9 ½ hours weekly. To a patient the time in the suite drags. Distractions are a good idea, with lots of ways to entertain patients. When folk become bored, they tend to become more anxious.
“My aim is to keep patients Calm, Comfortable, and Confident. – Calm by hopefully eliminating some of their anxieties. Comfortable by giving them an extra pillow or anything else they may need or want, from a heat pad to a Cornish pasty from Gledhow wing, whatever it takes to improve their treatment day. Confident by letting them see that my hair is normal, my skin is clear, my eyelashes and eyebrows have returned. I did this, and they can do it too. We currently have 55 chairs but can treat 100 patients per day!
“I have made progress to add some extra touches or distractions to aid my fellow patients during treatment day: current magazines in all bays, (folk don’t always have the time, energy, or money to bring something). Some free of charge papers, including the Yorkshire Reporter, (to stay in touch with local news.) Books and cards, we sell for a donation. Magnifying sheets, (as the medications can make our eyesight “blurry”, so folk can still read if they choose to. Scarves and hats, that gives both warmth and confidence, to those without hair.
“I approach the suppliers and manufacturers of the things I considered to be my “tools” which aided me through Chemo. I explain I am a Chemo Chum and ask them for discounts to make my donation money stretch a little further. Of course, if they wish to, I’ll accept a donation.
“So if you, like me, want to spread some joy at a time when folk need it most, by donating your time, your services, or any “tool” that might make treatment easier; get in touch by emailing me:
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.chemochums.co.uk for more info.”
For volunteering at any of the Leeds hospitals email
The NSPCC do all they can to support children. Childline helps anyone under 19 in the UK with any issue they’re going through. Whether it’s something big or small, trained volunteer counsellors are there. Childline is free, confidential and available any time, day or night. Since 1997 when the Childline service opened a base in Leeds, 224,415 online counselling sessions have been provided by volunteers. The charity also delivers Speak out. Stay safe. Assemblies in primary schools across the UK, and volunteers are the lifeblood of the NSPCC, enabling them to provide such services.
Childline in Leeds are looking for volunteers to help them be there for even more children and young people, when they need someone to talk to the most. As a Childline volunteer you would be trained to develop the skills needed to offer comfort, support and practical advice to many young people and children who call the service for help.
Darren Worth, Senior Supervisor at Childline’s Leeds base said, “Volunteering with Childline is one New Year’s resolution that might just change your life. Childline gives you the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of children and young people that need someone to listen to them when they feel like they have nowhere else to turn.”
Or why not join their dedicated Speak out. Stay safe volunteers who have reached an incredible 131,425 primary school children, visiting 593 schools across Yorkshire and Humber region in the last academic year alone. Children who suffer abuse often don’t recognise what is happening to them is wrong, so it is hugely important to make sure the next generation are given the information and knowledge they need to help protect themselves against abuse, cruelty and neglect.
For each of the primary schools they visit NSPCC volunteers present two slightly different assemblies – one for children in years 1 to 3 and one for years 4 to 6. This is so the children remember the most important message of all – if you feel upset, or worried, then you should always talk to a trusted adult.
Susan Celik, NSPCC Schools Service Volunteer said: “After raising my own family I wanted to give something back. I have always been so interested in children and in helping them to reach their full potential, so for me the Speak out. Stay safe assemblies were a perfect fit. I think it is a wonderful idea of making volunteering one of your New Year resolutions, it will be a decision you surely won’t regret in the least, you will get so much out of the knowledge you will be helping to keep children safe.”
For more information visit www.nspcc.org.uk
Age UK Leeds
Age UK Leeds assist older people to navigate the complex structure of society and retain their independence. They have been working in the local community for over 40 years in a variety of ways, such as offering advice, providing activity groups and events, supporting Leeds residents to get home from hospital and much more.
Age UK Leeds rely heavily on volunteers, with over 100 on board and always more needed! There are lots of different roles such as digital champion, fundraising, information and advice, and the befriending service which aims to reduce loneliness in older people by visiting them in their own home for a chat and a cuppa.
John is an Information and Advice (I&A) volunteer. He said, “Two and a half year ago I started volunteering under the wings of the staff and volunteers within the Advice team and I became competent within a few weeks. The clients are wonderful and delightful. One client even gave me a pet name in a thank you note, John the big gentle giant. As an Information & Advice volunteer I am proud and grateful that I can give something back to those who have given so much to our community.
I am proud to have contributed to Age UK Leeds achieving the Age UK Charity Quality Standard (CQS), which is externally assessed by quality assessment experts, SGS. If you are looking for a New Year’s Resolution, call our office or check our website we have many volunteer roles I am sure there is a boot ready to be filled by you. Put a smile on a senior citizen’s face!”
St George’s Crypt
St George’s Crypt support the homeless and vulnerable of Leeds. They offer a place to stay, a lunch service and much more including rehabilitation, clinics and social enterprises.
A spokesperson said, “Volunteers mean everything to the Crypt, we could not function without the support of the fantastic individuals who give their time to us. We have around 70 members of staff across all our sites and over 200 volunteers. Not only do our volunteers keep all of our sites running, but they support our residents, providing practical and emotional support, their presence alone makes a massive difference, it shows that there are people who care about our residents, and that can mean to the world to someone who feels alone and forgotten. There are many different volunteer roles available within the Crypt, and there is no minimum time requirement, our ad-hoc rotas mean that people can join us whenever they’re free without adding pressure to their schedules.”
Regular volunteer Poppy commented, “I started volunteering at St George’s crypt because I wanted to make a difference within the local community.
“I volunteer in the kitchen and this involves prepping food and serving the clients. I really enjoy this role because you can see the difference you’ve made to their day. The atmosphere at St George’s Crypt is always so positive and happy and everyone is always so welcoming. This makes you want to come back week after week.”
For more information or to get involved please contact Olivia via email on Olivia.Quick@stgeorgescrypt.org.uk or by calling 0113 245 9061 ext. 303.
If volunteering is not for you, then you are still able to make a difference to people’s lives by donating blood. NHS Blood and Transplant are always in regular need of donors of any blood group but particularly O negative. You need to register as a donor and make an appointment in order to donate. Men can donate every 12 weeks and women every 16, but you don’t have to do it as often as that if you don’t want to.
An NHS Blood and Transplant spokesperson said: “We especially need men to register as new blood donors this year. Men’s blood can be used extraordinary ways. For example, only men’s blood is used for complete blood transfusions in new-born babies. We need more men to ensure we have a strong enough donor base for the future.
“The best places to donate are our dedicated blood donor centres in Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield. If you can’t find an appointment right away don’t worry – your blood will do extraordinary things if you donate in a few weeks instead.”
Lauren McDonnell, 37, from Burley in Wharfedale, received a lifesaving blood transfusion after a problem pregnancy, which means she is still here to bring up her young daughter. In 2013 she suffered a heterotopic pregnancy, which is a rare complication which means there is both a normal pregnancy and an ectopic pregnancy, one of which develops outside the womb. As a result, she needed surgery and received three units of blood during the operation.
Lauren said: “I had a transfusion during surgery, it saved my life and means I am still here to look after my daughter, Orlaith. Giving blood is such a small act that can make a massive difference to someone else’s life. People that give blood are amazing.”
You can start saving lives by making an appointment at
Almost 2 million people in the UK are living with sight loss and of this, 180,000 rarely leave their homes alone. Volunteering for Guide Dogs can help reduce their isolation in a variety of ways making them feel independent and able to live their lives the way they choose. You could volunteer to be a My Guide Sighted Guide, a driver, a puppy walker, a collection box co-ordinator or a fundraiser.
The My Guide service equips volunteers with the skills to safely guide someone with a visual impairment to help them get out of their homes and do the things they want to do such as a trip to the supermarket, the gym or the theatre. Volunteer drivers drive clients, dogs and/or equipment to a variety of locations across the UK. Collection box co-ordinators place the iconic boxes in shops and businesses locally and tally up the funds before paying them in to Guide Dogs.
Puppy Walkers play a vital role in the early socialisation and education of guide dog puppies, taking them into their own homes and teaching them basic obedience commands. They familiarise the pup with different environments, sounds, people and situations until they are ready to go to training school at around 14 months old.
Terry is a My Guide volunteer who lives in Morley near Leeds. He believes that being a guide has improved his own well-being and made him more tolerant. He explained “I was matched with a visually impaired gentleman in February last year. We meet once a week and we go for a walk and a coffee or whatever he wants to do. I can honestly say that I get as much out of our meetings as he does. Being a sighted guide makes you get out and about and having to describe things to your partner makes you appreciate things that you may not normally. For instance, I describe the lovely Victorian buildings to him, and it makes me more aware of my surroundings.”
Visit www.guidedogs.org.uk for more information, or contact Ruth Wood, Volunteer Coordinator for Guide Dogs in Yorkshire on email@example.com
Dogs Trust Leeds
Dogs Trust never puts a healthy dog down. They take care of abandoned dogs, working hard to find their perfect forever home as they believe every dog has the right to a loving family of their own. Along with the rehoming centres, Dogs Trust also offer advice and support to dog owners and run a dog school where your pooches can get to grips with basic obedience skills. They rely on volunteers to help the staff ensure that the rehoming centres run as smoothly as possible and that the dogs’ stays are as stress free as possible.
Evelyn Grice is a volunteer at Dogs Trust Leeds, helping out with the laundry – a much needed task given that an estimated 2625 loads of washing have been done this year to ensure the dogs have lovely, comfy, clean bedding, beds and soft toys to snuggle up to.
Evelyn says: “I have quite a bit of spare time and love animals. I used to walk the dogs for ten years and now I help with the laundry, and there’s a lot of it! I enjoy it and it really helps the staff, and the dogs. I find it therapeutic and challenging. Dogs Trust Leeds is like my second home.”
Dogs Trust Leeds currently has 39 volunteers helping with everything from taking dogs for off-site walks and helping keep the grounds neat and tidy, to administrators and visiting homes prior to dogs heading off to their forever homes. Volunteering opportunities come up throughout the year so the best thing for people to do is keep an eye on the website – www.dogstrust.org.uk