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Find out about the people behind Royal Voluntary Service in our series of guest stories from our volunteers, staff and partners.
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As part of our series of blogs celebrating Volunteers Week, meet Heather who works as a hospital shop volunteer and Volunteer Manager at Seacroft Hospital, Wharfedale Hospital and St James Hospital in Leeds.
“I’ve been volunteering in the shop for about a year and have been running the shop sites for three hospitals in Leeds for two years. I recruit, train and manage volunteers for all of the shops and make sure that great service is delivered every time.
“I was inspired to start volunteering after using the Royal Voluntary Service café at Seacroft Hospital as a patient for some time. I always got great service; the volunteers were really friendly and looked like they were having fun whilst doing it.
“I love the variety that comes with working in three different hospitals. I love recruiting and training new volunteers and seeing them enjoy their volunteering like I do. I also enjoy serving my customers in the shop, café or on the trolley on the wards. I work with some fantastic people and we make a difference to the people in the hospitals at difficult times.
“I’d recommend volunteering in a Royal Voluntary Service hospital shop or café to others because it’s a way of offering a fantastic service and experience to patients, visitors and staff. People tell me that it’s great to have somewhere friendly and comfortable to go while waiting for appointments which makes the job worthwhile.
“I enjoy serving my customers in the shop, café or on the trolley on the wards. I work with some fantastic people and we make a difference to the people in the hospitals at difficult times. Next week I am going to a Garden Party with Queen in my role as a volunteer. I am so excited!”
Royal Voluntary Service runs a host of shops and cafés in hospitals as well as community projects all over Great Britain. Find out about volunteering opportunities in your area or get support for a loved one.
Volunteering. It’s in our name and has been part of the organisation since its conception nearly 80 years ago. Today, at the start of Volunteers Week, Royal Voluntary Service has around 35,000 volunteers who support older people around Great Britain. I want to say a personal thank you to each and every one of you.
I see the incredible impact that you make on your communities and the country as a whole. You work tirelessly to make a difference to those around you and you make a difference to thousands of lives every day. I’m heartened to hear the sentiments of those who are supported by you and the thanks passed on from family members who care so deeply and hugely appreciate the time you spend with their loved ones.
I want to take this opportunity to express my thanks to all of our volunteers. Some have provided support for decades while others have been welcomed into our ranks in recent weeks. Whether you’re just starting out on your volunteering journey or you have many years of service to look back on, we appreciate your support.
Volunteers Week runs 1 – 7 June that celebrates the difference that volunteers make every day. Find out how to join our Royal Voluntary Service volunteers or see how to get support near you.
It’s Volunteers Week and we’re celebrating with tea parties and events all over the country. To kick start the week, meet Avril who lives in Haddington and volunteers for the Good Neighbours service in East Lothian, Scotland.
“I’ve been volunteering with Royal Voluntary Service for two years and am a companion for two older ladies who live near me as well as helping out with transport to help get people out and about.
“I visit both ladies every week for a chat; we get on so well. One lady is virtually housebound so my visits are particularly important for her. I go out with the other lady, who is more mobile, and we go to the shops together occasionally.
“Volunteering as a befriender makes a big difference to the local community as it helps to reduce isolation and gives people something to look forward to; I see the benefits of my visits and enjoy it immensely.
“Helping others with transport means that they can attend doctors’ appointments and take part in social activities, which they might not be able to access on their own.
“I benefit greatly from volunteering; I feel that I add something to the community and help those who are not as able as myself. It gives me a lovely sense of fulfilment.
One of the ladies that Avril visits said “Befriending alleviates loneliness; I’m grateful for the visits. They allow me to share my points of view with Avril, which is very stimulating.
“Before Avril’s visits, I was in complete isolation for over ten months – a very long time. Although I have a lady who helps with cleaning and my son who does my weekly shopping, they don’t have time to spend chatting.
“Avril’s visits gives me companionship after being so isolated. It’s such a good service.”
is an annual event which celebrates the difference volunteers make to every community across the country. Royal Voluntary Service provides support to older people across Great Britain through a network of volunteers like Avril. Find out how to volunteer near you
or get local support for an older person
Tom is 98 and has been a regular at the workshop ever since it started. Tom used to work on a farm and as a gardener and driver. He retired at the age of 85, after many fruitful years of work. Tom says the workshop has been a central part of his life.
Find a service near you
“I’m the last person remaining from my generation so I don’t have many friends left. Royal Voluntary Service’s Social Centre has provided me with a social life since it began, and now the workshop has given me more friends.”
Tom likes getting involved with woodwork and he’s made bird tables, bird boxes and planters. Sometimes the men make craft items so he’s done some painting too.
“I like doing things, I’m very handy so the workshop keeps me active and using my skills. I also get to meet friends and have some company as I don’t get much at home.”
“You can’t go wrong; everyone is happy. I tell everyone about the workshop, and I get people to buy our items too.”
Thanks to funds raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery
are helping us to provide places where older people can get together across Great Britain. Sheds
are a brilliant way to bring people together and reduce social isolation; they were founded by men and some sheds welcome all members of the community, regardless of gender. Find local services near you
to support older people in your area.
Meet Elaine who regularly visits four older people as part of the Royal Voluntary Service East Cheshire Service. One of the people she supports is Gordon, who is 94 and lives in the countryside.
Gordon says: “It’s quite rural where I live and, because I don’t have a car and can’t walk very far, it can be quite lonely. Elaine comes to see me every week and we usually go to a luncheon club in Handforth Dean or sometimes we stay more local. It depends on how the mood takes us. I seldom chat to people so it’s great to see Elaine and the others at the club.”
Gordon has a daughter who does his shopping and visits him but he doesn’t really see anyone else. He spends his time relaxing and watching TV. Before retiring, Gordon was an Electronics Engineer on ships and spent a lot of his time travelling the world, leading a team of twenty men. He and Elaine like to chat about his work and they like getting out and about as well as meeting the other regular diners at the luncheon club.
Elaine adds: “I really look forward to spending time with Gordon. We enjoy each other’s company.
“I do a lot of volunteering; I love it. I think it is very important to give something back. Time is one thing that can’t be bought; giving time is important, especially if you can help someone who is housebound and lonely.”
We’d like to thank players of People’s Postcode Lottery
who are helping older people across Great Britain through the funds that they raise for Royal Voluntary Service. Get support for an older person
through a local service or join our team of volunteers
making a difference every day.
Meet Thomas, who’s running the London Marathon to raise money for Royal Voluntary Service in April. Find out how he motivates himself while training and on the big day itself.
Run for Royal Voluntary Service
I have been running for nearly 4 years now and during that time, I joined a local running club. I have since ran countless 5ks, 10ks and half marathons. I’ve run the London marathon twice now and 2017 will be my third time.
Royal Voluntary Service is a charity that is close to my heart with both my grandparents receiving support
from them when they were living at home independently. They are an excellent charity and I want to raise their profile and help support the ever increasing work that they do to help older people.
The care and support received from volunteers is fantastic and it is comforting to know that older people are cared for when they need it. I also feel it’s important that older people are able to live independently in their homes through the good work that Royal Voluntary Service do.
I have a target of raising £1,000 for Royal Voluntary Service. I will be asking friends, family, and generous work colleagues for sponsorship. I’m also planning to do a cake sale at work and possibly a curry or quiz night to raise funds.
I’ve been training as much as I can; it can be quite hard to fit runs in during the week as I work in London. I do long runs on a Saturday morning meaning I’m gone for around three hours at a time. It is even more challenging this year as I have a little 9 month old son who keeps me very busy!
My best marathon tip is to keep up with training. Ensure you do a few 20 mile runs or running continuously for three or more hours, and that you get to your longest run before a marathon. By doing this, you will know what it takes and be mentally prepared for the marathon itself. My training sessions are fuelled by water, gels, salt and energy tablets. Plus sheer determination to succeed, of course!
I stay motivated by keeping focused on the big day. I’m looking forward to running the best marathon in the world. Having a personal goal of a finish time you want to achieve on the day can be helpful too. It’s always good knowing that you have to put the miles in to hopefully get the result you want. It’s not easy though - no pain, no gain as they say.
We’ll be cheering Thomas on as he and Team Royal Voluntary Service run the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 23rd April. Find out how to raise money for Royal Voluntary Service through charity challenges. Read Jamie's story, who ran the London Marathon for Royal Voluntary Service in 2016.
Kate Bull, Executive Director of Retail, tells us about the new shop opened in Hairmyres Hospital in East Lanarkshire.
Today is a momentous day; we’re opening a hospital shop with a difference. After cutting the ribbon and opening to the public, our Shop & Co. in Hairmyres Hospital, East Kilbride will serve staff, patients and visitors with healthy groceries and refreshments. Like all of our 440 shops around Great Britain, it is managed locally and staffed by a team of friendly staff and volunteers.
Find out about our shops
Our research has found that eating healthily is one of the many struggles for NHS staff. 41 per cent of doctors and nurses in Scotland have one or no pieces of fruit and vegetables during a typical working day. We’re trying to make things as easy as possible to get hold of healthier food choices in hospitals, from today, you’ll be able to find sushi, salads, fruit, dried fruit and healthy take home products such as cauliflower rice and soups at Shop & Co.
We know the access to healthier food and drink choices through our shops and cafes will have a huge impact on the health of hospital staff, visitors and patients in Scotland. Our predictions show that our shops and cafés will provide 3.4 million people with access to healthier food and drink. A focus on healthier snacks will see 30,000 portions of fruit and vegetables consumed and fat consumption from crisps will reduce by three million grams while salt consumption will be reduced by 15,000 teaspoons.
Anything sold in Shop & Co., like all of our shops and cafés, is price matched against similar retailers so that you can be sure that you’re getting a good deal. And profits raised help to fund Royal Voluntary Service’s work supporting isolated older people like our Home from Hospital service which helps the transition when someone is discharged. It’s been proven to reduce complications when an older person goes home and reduces the likelihood of a return visit to hospital. It’s a nice feeling when your shopping gives back to those in need.
Today is the next step in our transformation of our shops and cafés all over Great Britain to provide a modern shopping experience while incorporating healthy choices for all. We hope to work with other commissioners and hospital partners to provide a healthier retail experience.
Royal Voluntary Service hospital shops and cafés
provide a friendly face as well as refreshment to hospital patients, visitors and staff. Find out how to volunteer near you
Funds raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery are helping us to run a specialist service in Doncaster, helping older people with dementia and their carers. Wendy and Ken have only been using the Doncaster Dementia Support service for a short time but Victoria, their volunteer, has had a big impact on their lives.
“Victoria makes a huge difference to our lives; she is a lovely, gentle person. It’s an amazing relief for me that I don’t worry about Ken when she’s with him. She takes him in his wheelchair on her own and they go to the shops.”
While Ken was working as a Vicar in South London, he was crushed by a lorry and subsequently uses a wheelchair. Having recently retired and following a severe fall, tests revealed that he had suffered from a stroke leading to vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. His wife of 28 years, Wendy, is his main carer. They live together in a bungalow and find it difficult to get out and about, which can make them quite isolated.
“Both of us were very isolated. It’s lucky that we love each other very much. We try to be happy in all circumstances.”
Victoria visits Ken & Wendy for two hours every alternate Monday, so that Wendy and her daughter can get out of the house and do some shopping.
“I think I provide reassurance to Wendy, she knows that Ken is ok when I’m there. Ken and I play scrabble which is good for his memory. When we go to the shops, I encourage him to reach and get things from the shelves. I try and encourage his independence skills as much as possible.
“Volunteering gives me a sense of purpose, I feel valued and appreciated. I know that Wendy relies on me so I make sure I’m always on time. I know I make an impact, and because of that I feel more connected to the community I live in.”
Victoria has two small children and a third on the way, but she still finds time to volunteer, because she enjoys it.
“My Aunty passed away and I was grieving, my friend who is a volunteer suggested I do something to ‘brighten up my life.’ And it has, I am much happier for knowing Wendy and Ken.”
Thank you to People's Postcode Lottery players
for helping Royal Voluntary Service to make a difference to the lives of older people all over Great Britain. Join our team of volunteers
and improve lives near you.
Meet Heulwen who has been matched with David through the Gwynedd Good Neighbours service after her husband passed away and she started to feel isolated and depressed. Visits from David have lifted her depression and made life worthwhile.
Heulwen was born in Caernarfon in Wales but spent most of her married life in Birmingham where her husband’s family lived. After nearly 40 years in the Midlands, they moved back to Caernarfon but so much had changed that Heulwen felt like a stranger.
When her husband died a few years ago, Heulwen was left on her own. Her eyesight started to deteriorate which meant she was no longer able to enjoy painting and gardening which she used to love.
David has been coming to see her for more than a year. He always brings cake to share and Heulwen makes the tea, and they chat.
“David is a very good companion. I always look forward to his visits. He reminds me of where I used to live, many years ago, before I moved to Birmingham. We reminisce and go over old memories and I feel happy when I do this - it reminds me of when I was young, of happier times. Talking to David lifts my mood.”
David is a retired sales manager in his mid-70s. He started volunteering after he lost his wife to breast cancer a few years ago:
“After my wife died, I started feeling depressed and the days seemed to be getting much longer. A friend suggested volunteering as a way of giving me a focus and it’s really helped me. It gets me out of the house and when I come home I have a real sense of satisfaction.”
David is always at the end of the phone if Heulwen has any problems and she says his visits have made a huge difference to her life:
“David has lifted my depression and he stops me feeling lonely. Nobody knows what loneliness is unless you have experienced it. It makes you feel unwanted”.
Thanks to funds raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery
, Royal Voluntary Service volunteers are able to help more many more people across Great Britain.
Meet Shirley who volunteers twice a week serving coffee and cake at the Vintage Tea Room at Chesham House in Lancing. She also volunteers at their Lunch Club, which serves sociable meals to older people. She started volunteering a couple of years ago and it helped her to re-connect with life after losing her husband.
“I absolutely love volunteering
, it gives me so much joy. I was very down after losing my husband, who I had nursed for 6 years. I didn’t want to go out or do anything. It was only after some counselling sessions that I started to feel more positive about life. Someone recommended that I start volunteering and I haven’t looked back.”
Volunteer and make a difference
Shirley volunteers every Tuesday and Wednesday in the tea room with her friend Angela: “I serve the delicious homemade cakes and Angela makes the drinks. I met Angela through volunteering and we are a great double act! We just love chatting to the members and making people laugh.”
“I would recommend volunteering to anyone. After retiring it’s hard to just down tools and manage all the extra time you have. I was shy at first but I soon got into it and now can’t imagine my life without it. I’ve so many new friends and it’s nice to know that you are helping older people who don’t have anyone to talk to unless they come into the tea room. It’s so nice to be needed.”
Shirley was featured on Good Morning Britain with our ambassador, Wayne Sleep
. Find out more about volunteering to make a difference in your community
or get support near you
Posted by Shirley Hill at 00:00
Tuesday, 17 January 2017.